As the year draws to an end it is tempting to reflect on what has been an extremely eventful and busy year. However, we have decided with our Summer newsletter to project forward in time and focus on the challenges and exciting opportunities ahead. The theme of this quarter’s newsletter is TERN 2025.
To set the scene for this projection forward it is worth looking at the recently announced National Science and Innovation Agenda launched in Canberra by the Prime Minster and Minster for Industry, Innovation and Science. A key facet of the agenda is a clear long-term commitment to NCRIS with $1.5 billion earmarked to be spent on this component of research infrastructure in the coming decade. 2016 will be the key design year for the future program and the road mapping. This type of long-term view of research infrastructure is unprecedented and has been well received by major stakeholder groups. The full innovation statement can be found at http://www.innovation.gov.au.
Also released recently were fact sheets providing more details on the nine Science and Research Priorities. Together these mean the discussion can move from how do we keep the current TERN functioning on a year to year basis to a broader conversation on what the terrestrial ecosystem research community and their many industry, government and community stakeholders see as priorities in research infrastructure over the coming years.
One constantly articulated theme from the community has been the need to have research infrastructure that enables the underpinning science for healthy terrestrial ecosystems and that long-term data was needed to permit ecosystem change to be diagnosed, understood and responded to (see Foundations for the Future – A long-term plan for Australian Ecosystem Science).
The need for such a capability is manifold. For example, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Australian Government is required to produce a report on the State of the Environment every 5 years. An acknowledged deficiency of such reporting to date is their inability to accurately report on trends in underlying ecosystem health and also to project forward as to likely trajectories in response to high-level policy and program interventions. It would be nice to think that by 2025, TERN has been a significant contributor to addressing this shortcoming. In the case of biodiversity change the TERN facilitated publication Biodiversity and Environmental Change provides a good framework for future assessment approaches.
It is tempting to see the outcome of improved ecosystem health as predominately a public good; however, as outlined in our Industry Engagement Plan, numerous important industries are either dependent on healthy ecosystems or need to implement cost effective impact mitigation or restoration measures to meet regulatory requirements and community expectations. In future years the linkage to industry and the use of TERN infrastructure will grow facilitating significant mutual benefits (e.g. better access and availability of environmental survey data).
A key theme of the NCRIS programme is supporting Australian science communities to undertake global impact science. We have already seen the multiple benefits of linking our infrastructure to similar overseas programs to enable higher impact research (e.g. strong links between OzFlux and the Fluxnet community). It is easy to envisage that by 2025, such linkages will be fully formed across the full breadth of TERN capabilities enable ecosystem change to examined in a global context as is now more common place in the marine and climatological domains. To this end TERN is looking at growing our links with key international partners such as NEON, ILTER and European ecosystem infrastructure platforms.
As we move further into the era of big data the requirements for the ecosystem science community to efficiently access high quality data stores and services, the necessary high performance computing power and the analytical tools to produce repeatable and transferrable science is only going to grow. The CoESRA capability is an example on how this e-Research capability can be assembled for community use with much lower costs of entry. By 2025 this capability, along with the wealth of TERN data services, could easily transform into a fully fledged virtual laboratory that not only aided researchers but was an effective teaching and engagement aid. To this end our development partners QCIF have recently released a “how to” manual to increase accessibility to the system.
Coming back from 2025, it would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank all TERN staff, our partners and the people who have access the infrastructure for all they have achieved this year. I would like to wish all a safe and enjoyable end of year break and look forward to working with you in 2016.
Published in TERN newsletter December 2015