Monday, 17 September 2012

Will Australia's CRCSI "Spatial Infrastructure" research see the light of day?

CRCSI Focus: http://www.crcsi.com.au/Research
Australia's Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Infrastructures, CRCSI, has announced its research agenda for Spatial Information in a series of workshops around Australia, and in Sydney the presentation was met with a sceptical audience.
The CRCSI have $180 million worth of research budget, and "Spatial Infrastructure" represents 1/3 of the CRCSI's core agenda, and as such there is the potential to make some great contributions to Spatial Infrastructure. So why were the audience sceptical?
This is the second 7 year CRCSI agenda. In the first there was a feeling that many of the research projects did not follow through into practical implementations. As such, the bid for this second CRCSI emphasised a changed focus toward practical research. However audience sentiment was that the recent research proposed would not see the light of day. Here are some of the reasons why:

Lack of collaboration with Spatial Infrastructure champions

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is the leading international body coordinating research, development and testing of the standards which back Spatial Infrastructure. I would ague that for a research program to be of value, it needs to advance OGC standards. However, CRCSI's current agenda mentions only the use of existing standards.
Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, CSIRO, are already world leaders in spatial research, having led development of a number of Spatial Initiatives and standards developments in conjunction with the OGC. In particular, CSIRO are currently leading the world in research into  Ontologies, Linked Data, and Catalogs which has many synergies with the the Australian and New Zealand Spatial Marketplace being promoted as a focus for the CRCSI's research agenda. However the CRCSI strategy has no mention of collaboration with CSIRO and seems to be proposing to solve similar problems themselves. Long term, this will result in the technology behind the Marketplace becoming obsolete as the rest of the world pick up and mature CSIRO's research, while Australian/New Zealand will be solely left to maintain the Marketplace.

Gap between Research and Implementation

There were serious concerns raised by both industry and government audience members about the usefulness of any research likely to be generated. You see, most of the pressing (and expensive) Spatial Infrastructure problems needing to be solved are found in the integration of systems. However, the CRCSI seem to have abdicated responsibility for tacking these hard problems, as they don't constitute "research". What would be preferable is that the success of research be judged by whether it has been integrated into Spatial Infrastructure software and processes, not by the earlier stage of being published in an academic journal.

What should the CRCSI do instead?

If the CRCSI is to heed the feedback from the Sydney meeting, the CRCSI will tackle less research topics, but will take these topics right through to implementation. The CSCSI will engage deeply with the OGC, probably leading a stream in an OGC testbed or pilot. The CRCSI would also work closer with the CSIRO and collaborate on initiatives.

4 comments:

T.O. Chan said...

Cameron

Let’s allay some of your fears and correct some of your misconceptions:

1. We are vitally interested in progressing new standards as well as existing standards. As indicated to you during our discussion prior to the workshop we will work with members of the OGC Forum in Australia and New Zealand around implementation of existing OGC standards and development of new standards.
2. The CRCSI has recently signed an MOU with the OGC and both organisations have agreed to become members of each others respective organisations.
3. The CRCSI and CSIRO are in discussions to identify the best form of collaboration as indicated on one of the slides at the workshop. The CRCSI completed an ‘Alignment Study’ earlier in 2012 that examined 34 of Australia’s and New Zealand’s leading Spatial Data Supply Chains (SDSCs). As a result the CRCSI has a very good working knowledge of the activities in this area and is keen to ‘stand on the shoulders’ of existing activities, and not reinvent anything. Remember, this is a strategy document you are reviewing, the more detailed operational plans (project proposals) are now under development.
4. The strategy document looks 5 years out. Its whole intention is to avoid existing investments from becoming obsolete. The focus is on next generation infrastructure, leapfrogging existing limitations. OGC standards are just one element of this.
5. In relation to the relevance of the research most of the discussion at the workshop you attended looked at the governance and cultural issues associated with the development of existing SDI’s. We agree that systems integration is a key issue but the discussion did not focus on this at the workshop. However you will be pleased to note that the CRCSI is already beginning to look at the options with respect to the integration of the most appropriate elements of existing SDSCs and to therefore focus on the research issues that can best progress solutions to their integration.
6. We are already planning to embed the research in existing systems so that the research outcomes can be readily migrated to operational use. This will be a key element of the research planning.

It is the CRCSI’s strong intention to drive the outcomes of the research into the operational environment. The strategy is being led by a Program Board that itself is led by end users. No research can be conducted in the CRCSI unless the Program Board signs off that it wishes to implement the outcomes.

T.O Chan
Director CRCSI Program 3 (Spatial Infrastructure)
17 September 2012

T.O. Chan said...

Cameron

Let’s allay some of your fears and correct some of your misconceptions:

1. We are vitally interested in progressing new standards as well as existing standards. As indicated to you during our discussion prior to the workshop we will work with members of the OGC Forum in Australia and New Zealand around implementation of existing OGC standards and development of new standards.
2. The CRCSI has recently signed an MOU with the OGC and both organisations have agreed to become members of each others respective organisations.
3. The CRCSI and CSIRO are in discussions to identify the best form of collaboration as indicated on one of the slides at the workshop. The CRCSI completed an ‘Alignment Study’ earlier in 2012 that examined 34 of Australia’s and New Zealand’s leading Spatial Data Supply Chains (SDSCs). As a result the CRCSI has a very good working knowledge of the activities in this area and is keen to ‘stand on the shoulders’ of existing activities, and not reinvent anything. Remember, this is a strategy document you are reviewing, the more detailed operational plans (project proposals) are now under development.
4. The strategy document looks 5 years out. Its whole intention is to avoid existing investments from becoming obsolete. The focus is on next generation infrastructure, leapfrogging existing limitations. OGC standards are just one element of this.
5. In relation to the relevance of the research most of the discussion at the workshop you attended looked at the governance and cultural issues associated with the development of existing SDI’s. We agree that systems integration is a key issue but the discussion did not focus on this at the workshop. However you will be pleased to note that the CRCSI is already beginning to look at the options with respect to the integration of the most appropriate elements of existing SDSCs and to therefore focus on the research issues that can best progress solutions to their integration.
6. We are already planning to embed the research in existing systems so that the research outcomes can be readily migrated to operational use. This will be a key element of the research planning.

It is the CRCSI’s strong intention to drive the outcomes of the research into the operational environment. The strategy is being led by a Program Board that itself is led by end users. No research can be conducted in the CRCSI unless the Program Board signs off that it wishes to implement the outcomes.

T.O Chan
Director CRCSI Program 3 (Spatial Infrastructure)
17 September 2012

Unknown said...

Looks like some nice words. But what are you going to do? Do you have one example of something that addresses Cameron's concerns?

pcreso said...

CSIRO is developing tools & systems which can be used now. They are actively liasing with stakeholders throughout Australasia (I'm in NZ). Form my perspective CRCSI is an ivory tower silo of little relevance.

CRSI has been relatively well funded for some years (by my standards, anyway!), and only now are "beginning to look at the options ..." and "planning to embed the research..."

Basically Chan's comment says they hope do do something useful soon. Yeah, right!