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The University of Melbourne will lead two major research infrastructure projects worth $67 million that will help lead to more sustainable urban growth and will better connect the country’s researchers through improved Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure.

The initiatives, the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) project and the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN), have been funded under the Commonwealth Government’s Super Science scheme.

The projects, while distinct, share a common goal of enhancing research collaboration and improving the necessary technology and research infrastructure needed to enhance research outcomes.

The $47 million four-year NeCTAR project will develop infrastructure to boost national eResearch collaborations and simplify the combined use of instruments, data, computing and analysis applications. The project will also provide better access to multiple IT resources.

Professor Geoffrey Taylor, from the University’s School of Physics, has been appointed Interim Director of NeCTAR and said the project aimed to complement existing IT infrastructure where relevant and develop new technology to improve research capabilities.

“This project aims to help researchers at the coalface by improving Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to help boost research collaboration and therefore research outcomes,” he said.

“The project will enhance eResearch tools used by the research community, develop Virtual Laboratories to enable researchers to develop and share tools securely and will establish a suite of National Servers to host the applications necessary to advance research and research collaborations.”

The project will enable advances in research in a range of areas, including those covered by other Super Science projects where eResearch tools and capabilities play a significant role.

The $20 million, four-year AURIN project will develop national research infrastructure to increase our understanding of urban resources as well as their use and management to enable better analysis of urban issues and policy development.

Professor Tom Kvan, Dean of the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, has been appointed Interim Director of the network. He said AURIN would engage with urban researchers, designers and planners to identify research infrastructure needs.

“AURIN will provide urban researchers, planners and designers with the datasets and information needed to better understand patterns of urban development and model urban growth for the future,” he said.

“Using archived and dynamic data sources, AURIN will collect and filter information and provide the mechanisms, protocols and tools by which the data can be used to improve our understanding of urban resources, including energy and water consumptions and resource management to improve the social and economic sustainability of Australia’s urban and built environments.”

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-chancellor (Research) Professor Peter Rathjen welcomed the projects and said the University of Melbourne was well placed to lead them.

“The University of Melbourne has experience in developing major research facilities and recognizes the importance of central coordination of cutting edge research and computing systems on a national scale,” he said.

“Improving infrastructure to better enable research collaboration and access to data will improve Australia’s ability to deliver cutting edge research to best meet the challenges faced by the broader community.

“These projects further cement the position of the University of Melbourne as a national
leader in eResearch infrastructure and capability.

“We have, in the last few months, taken delivery of an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer as part of the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI), launched the first international Collaboratory in the Life Sciences with IBM, and recruited outstanding researchers from Europe including Professor Richard Sinnott from Glasgow University as eResearch Director and Professor Peter Taylor from Warwick University as Director of the VLSCI.”