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Gateways 2017 Guest Blog: a Presenter from Australia

By Sarah Richmond

Hailing all the way from Queensland Australia, I landed in Detroit and jumped in a taxi towards Ann Arbor for the Gateways 2017 conference. I was there to represent the Australian-born Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory(BCCVL), an initiative of the Nectar Virtual Labs scheme. Nectar Virtual Labs are rich domain-oriented online environments that draw together research data, models, analysis tools and workflows to support collaborative research across institutional and disciplinary boundaries. They are built and led by the Australian research sector and are used nationally and internationally by the research community.

After a few days spent exploring and shaking off the jet lag, I arrived at the registration desk Monday morning to be greeted by the smiling faces of Katherine and Nayiri who explained how the next few days would work. That afternoon I ran a workshop that explored the Australian research infrastructure and showcased the BCCVL as an example of a cloud-based research tool with a user-friendly interface.

The following two days were inspiring. Coming from a science background I have to admit that some of the heavy technology talks (especially with all those acronyms) went a little over my head at times. Having said that, it was fantastic to see the breadth of cloud-based solutions that the science gateways community are coming up with to assist researchers - and also comforting to hear there are some common issues that we all face. Below are a few of my event highlights:

  • The food!
  • The hands-on tutorials gave delegates an opportunity to learn from the successes (and mishaps) of others. In particular, the tutorials on Strategies for Success presented by Ann Zimmerman were very topical and something all gateways/virtual labs should engage in their business plans.
  • Tuesday’s opening plenary by Elyse Aurbach about the importance of effective engagement with your community was inspiring and sparked me to rethink new ways we can engage with our researchers.
  • The mix between live demonstrations and short papers was a nice way to keep the audience engaged.
  • The poster session was a good way to get a bit more insight into some of the gateways solutions and the infrastructure that sits behind them. This was a particularly useful event to network and make connections.
  • Wednesday’s panel session addressed the issue of long-term sustainability - something that is undoubtedly on the mind of all managers/directors of science gateways/virtual labs. The Science Gateways Bootcamp is a great initiative, and something I hope to attend in the future.
  • Did I mention the food?

Overall, the Gateways 2017 conference provided an influential insight into the tools that provide solutions for important issues facing the world today. The breadth of solutions presented was impressive - from data science gateways built for students in classrooms, to gateways designed for medical professionals to help lower mortality caused by adverse drug side effects. Digital infrastructure is fundamental to advancing research aspirations and I certainly look forward to seeing what we can achieve in another few years.

Thanks to the Gateways 2017 organizing committee for putting on such a great event!

Learn more about the Gateways 2017 conference.