A $2.7 million international eResearch centre that will help scientists measure climate change and assess the health of ecosystems was officially opened at Queensland University of Technology today.
The new Microsoft QUT eResearch Centre, which is the first of its kind in Australia and one of only a handful in the world, aims to give scientists more time for discovery and invention by automating the data processes that are necessary to their research.
The virtual lab is jointly funded by Microsoft, QUT and the Queensland Government.
QUT Professor Paul Roe said the centre would allow scientists to research climate change by providing the IT tools necessary to collate, manage and analyse vast amounts of information.
"For example QUT scientists are already involved in a project that uses adaptive sensor networks to collect sound data of bird colonies north of Brisbane," he said.
"The sensors capture data in real time, making it is possible to identify bird species by recognising their calls. However the amount of data collected needs to be managed and indexed in a way that allows scientists to analyse the information."
Professor Roe said while an individual sound bite was not interesting in itself, a bank of sound bites could identify important changes in ecosystems.
"By having the technology to analyse the sound data, scientists will be able to keep track of bird populations and identify factors that maybe linked to the health of the environment or climate change," he said.
Professor Roe said at the moment scientists were "drowning in data".
"The computing power of this new eResearch centre will enable scientists to use their brilliant minds for what they do best - research. Research relies on and is limited by ICT technologies. To further science, smarter eResearch tools are required," he said.
"We propose to research a virtual research lab application for scientists, which will enable them to undertake new science through improved collaboration, data analysis and experimentation."
Microsoft Research general manager Kevin Schofield said the announcement signified a further strengthening of Microsoft's relationship with QUT.
"We look worldwide for our partners and QUT offered a great combination of focus, researchers and ability in this area of research," Schofield said.
The centre will be funded over three years by $900,000 from the Queensland Smart State Innovation fund (National and International Research Alliances Program), $600,000 from Microsoft and $900,000 in cash and kind from QUT.
"The lab will lead to even more research and development in Queensland and increased training opportunities," Professor Roe said.
"Relying on QUT's real-world research in data visualisation, machine learning, collaborative systems and programming languages, the lab will result in advances in scientific discovery which will translate to advances in the health, well-being and economic prosperity of Queensland."