Director’s Update – October 2020

Welcome to our post-2020 Australian Federal Budget TERN newsletter. Based on email questions, it seems that some of our community have been predicting over the past months that with an economic recession, national bushfire recovery costs and the unknown aftermath of COVID-19, long-term financial commitment to research infrastructure would be affected. The good news is that overall NCRIS funding was unchanged in the October Australian Budget. The Research Infrastructure Investment Plan (RIIP) funding is intact and drawdowns on the $1.9 billion funding committed in after the 2016 Roadmap for 12 years continues. Indeed, TERN and other existing NCRIS projects are expecting a formal announcement soon about some additional capital funding in 2022-23 for capital expenditure. Also, four new facilities have been announced in the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Indigenous e-research area, along with a Synthetic Biology initiative, the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) platform and the Sea Simulator project.

TERN held a virtual strategic planning day earlier this month with over thirty representatives of its Observatory, Data Services and Analytics platform and its regional nodes. A highlight of the day was the discussion about the development of value-added TERN ‘products’, to increase the utility, uptake and value gained from TERN’s data assets. The group looked at what products should be prioritised for creation from current data, to assist/maximise support to researchers and which had would feasibly lead to more impact of investment in TERN infrastructure.  In covering this topic, participants took an in-depth look at opportunities to deliver more value with respect to the three TERN pillars: Biodiversity and Ecosystems; Land and Terrain; and Carbon and Water to identify specifically which products no one else is developing either at the spatial scale, temporal frequency, or the level of detail that TERN can.  This year’s discussion on data products incorporated ideas for fast-tracking with machine learning and some creative ideas about visualisation and dashboards.  A sub-group has continued meeting each week to mind-map dependencies on other organisations for parts of the data and to develop schedules for the new products.  It has been a satisfying month with much collaboration and forward thinking!

We have been delighted this year at the response to our bi-monthly Ecosystem Observations webinars. Our ambition at the beginning of the year was quite modest – just a plan to hold regular seminars at the TERN office in Brisbane for students, academics and people from government. The first seminar was postponed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, which saw us all working from home. Once we started up again, the format had changed to online and the audience has been broadening with each event.  Indeed, with the third and final webinar for 2020 on 4 November, our registrant list includes people for across the nation and from overseas – evidence that some good things have come from a pandemic!  The topic we are sharing on 4 November at 3pm AEST is Standardising environmental information collection: harmonising Australia’s approaches.  We think the discussion is one vital importance to all us who are concerned that sound and consistent decisions are made in all jurisdictions \ in response to environmental impact assessments. Register now and learn more about issues related to standardising the way ecological field survey and monitoring data are collected and how we can improve consistency in data recording.  Until then, we wish you happy reading of this e-newsletter.


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