NeCTAR awards $0.6 million to Australian Synchrotron

Project meant to help researchers through data "waterfall," enable remote working.

The Australian Synchrotron aims to speed data analysis through a project funded with $641,387 from the Australian government’s National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) project, according to the Synchrotron’s head of science, Andrew Peele.

The Australian Synchrotron is one of 40 research facilities worldwide containing “a source of highly intense light ranging from infrared to hard x-rays used for a wide variety of research purposes,” according to its website. The Synchrotron is used by an array of research sectors, including pharmaceuticals, geosciences and agriculture.

The project funded by NeCTAR “streamlines the process of doing data and it makes it more transparent to users so they can get on with their science and we can more efficiently serve the scientific research community,” Peele told Computerworld Australia.

New eResearch tools will help researchers quickly wade through a “waterfall of data,” Peele said. Researchers are often “flooded with that data flow and it will take them a significant amount of time to analyse.” The facility expects that for some experiments, data that used to take an hour to analyse will be ready in couple of minutes.

Also, the tools will also enable remote working so that researchers can continue to analyse data at home, Peele said. “The final stage of the project is to hook into the NeCTAR research cloud.”

The project is to be deployed in stages, with an expected completion date of December 2013. The eResearch tools are being developed by the Synchrotron and NeCTAR in collaboration with Monash and La Trobe Universities, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Victorian e-Research Strategic Initiative (VeRSI).

Peele said one application of the Synchrotron's experiments is for structural biology: “how the body functions, how disease operates [and] how the immune function works.” He cited research on how blood clots and how certain proteins interact with cells to enhance immunity. Synchrotron research in spectroscopic microscopy lets researchers look at a leaf and determine if the plant is taking up heavy metals, for example, Peele said. That has applications to studies on the environment, health and biology, he said.

NeCTAR was launched in February this year and was developed by the University of Melbourne in conjunction with Xenon.

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