QCIF in 2017: A year in review

This year heralded some big changes for QCIF, both on an operational level and in terms of the resources we offer our members’ researchers.

New resources included QRIScloud’s Nextcloud service for efficient and easier research data management. Nextcloud is a one-stop shop to access and manipulate data wherever it is stored, using whatever device is preferred. As a bonus, each Nextcloud user has access to an additional personal 150 GB of data storage to use as they wish. 

Nectar introduced a new database service, providing a simple interface to manage databases, which we’ve made available on QRIScloud. It’s a service QRIScloud users requested, so we’ve happily delivered it.

Another request we’re delivering on is an object storage interface for accessing QRISdata collections. The new service allows data to be more widely accessible from a range of compute environments, particularly Nectar virtual machine instances. We’re currently trialling the service, and it should become generally available in early 2018.

QRIScloud underwent some major upgrades this year, with minimal disruption, to deliver these enhanced data services. To assist this work, we hired an additional QRIScloud Systems Engineer in August — Aguido Horatio Davis, an experienced research software programmer from UQ.

In other HPC news, Euramoo was rebuilt this year as Awoonga, a new high-performance compute cluster. Awoonga is easier for researchers to use and is compatible with HPCs FlashLite and Tinaroo, enabling researchers to work seamlessly across clusters.

Big changes have been afoot at UQ this year in terms of new eResearch hardware, and QCIF is actively supporting those changes. QCIF is involved in the development of dedicated computing and storage infrastructure to support UQ’s world-class Lattice Light Sheet Microscope (LLSM), which is expected to generate up to 7 TBs of imaging data per day.

Once captured on the LLSM, the data will be stored and made available via MeDiCI (Metropolitan Data Caching Infrastructure), a high-performance data storage fabric that has been deployed in QRIScloud and several UQ institutes. QCIF is continuing its work with UQ to further develop and support MeDiCI.

In terms of online portals for all, we happily announced EcoEd, a QCIF-backed innovative new national training and skills development program for university lecturers and researchers. EcoEd enables users to combine theoretical concepts with real-world applications developed by three NCRIS facilities — namely the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL), the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).

As part of the ReDBox data management platform, QCIF released the Research Activity Portal (RAP), a free online resource allowing data managers and institutions to quickly and easily register a research activity and generate a Research Activity ID (RAiD). A RAiD is a persistent identifier used to connect researchers, data, infrastructure and services to research projects.

In staffing news, we welcomed two new eResearch Analysts this year — David Warne based at QUT, and Amanda Miotto at Griffith University. Both have excellent IT skills and eResearch support experience, so we’re thrilled to have them join the team.

David, in partnership with Jason D’Netto, QCIF’s other QUT-based eResearch Analyst, started regular Hacky Hours at QUT’s Gardens Point campus in late October this year. Hacky Hour is an informal meetup in which IT experts help researchers with technical issues. Queensland now has regular Hacky Hours at QUT, UQ, JCU and Griffith, all led by QCIF eResearch Analysts.

In more formal training, even more QCIF-led and QFAB-organised workshops occurred this year than previous years, training more than 500 researchers.

QCIF formally signed several partnerships this year to strengthen the services we offer our members. QCIF signed up as a member of the U.S.-based Software Carpentry Foundation to maximise its benefits for Queensland researchers. Software Carpentry aims to teach researchers the computing skills they need to get more done in less time.

In February, QCIF and the Open Data Institute Queensland formally established a partnership to collaborate on projects involving open data and open innovation.

QFAB, our consulting unit, marked its 10th anniversary this year and a decade of providing leading bioinformatics services to life science and health researchers. QFAB merged with QCIF in April 2016 in a move designed to make QFAB’s services more widely available. 

Earlier this year, QFAB welcomed Dr Gareth Price in the new role of Head of Computational Biology. Dr Price was a Chief Scientist at Mater Health Services for almost a decade until December 2016.

However, the biggest QCIF staffing change came in May when we farewelled Rob Cook as CEO and welcomed his replacement, Dr Phil Gurney, who had led Brown Coal Innovation Australia until that point. Rob decided in 2016 to step down as CEO after seven years in the role.

This month we’re also farewelling Executive Officer Kathy Green, QCIF’s longest-serving employee at 14 years. Kathy is taking early retirement, and Joy Byrne will replace her.

We also sadly farewelled eResearch Analyst Team Leader Belinda Weaver, and Hamish Holewa. Belinda moved on in June to take up the exciting new position of Community Development Lead with the global Software Carpentry organisation, while Hamish took up a role as Chief Operating Officer at the Atlas of Living Australia. We remain in close contact with both.

With a new-look staff in place, QCIF is excited about 2018. We’re planning on delivering more resources, more services and more training for Queensland’s researchers. Watch this space!