Touring eResearch @ Western Sydney with Barney Glover

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Touring eResearch @ Western Sydney with Barney Glover by Peter Sefton and Andrew Leahy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

On Monday March 17 th , the eResearch team at UWS hosted a visit from Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover. Barney came to see The Wonderama Project Lab and we took advantage of the precious VC-time to tell him about a few eResearch highlights. As well as Barney we had Andrew Leahy, Peter Sefton, associate PVCR Deborah Sweeney and Peter Bugeia from Intersect, our eResearch partner. Intersect helped use to build much of what we talked about, and continue to assist UWS in driving eResearch uptake.

Wonderama is an interactive multi-screen visual experience. The lab’s primary goal is to push the boundaries of what’s possible with common visualization applications and APIs (programming interfaces) using off-the-shelf hardware and to have fun along the way. Wonderama is used to host visits by school groups and the occasional corporate gig (thanks, Google and Powerhouse Museum). To this end, eResearch through Andrew Leahy, enlists final year B.CompSci, B.ICT and B.Music students to work on projects involving applications such as Google Earth, Second Life, Microsoft World Wide Telescope, and inexpensive controller hardware like hand-held tablets, the Microsoft Kinect and Leap Motion.

We structured the visit around a virtual tour of eResearch at UWS, showing off the display and visualization tech the Lab has built-up and, um, borrowed, at the Kingswood campus through scrounging, being in the right place in the right time to pick up Google hand-me-down equipment and applications to the School of Science Engineering and Mathematics (SCEM).

For the tour we used the Wonder Wall which is a 6m wide ultra-widescreen high-definition projection surface. We flew to each campus using a tweaked version of Google Earth that mimics atmospheric haze and time-of-day. Location-based pop ups were used as speaking points for each campus. The images below are screenshots from the presentation.

Penrith (Kingswood) – Wonderama

Our first stop was Kingswood, where we looked at Wonderama Lab itself. Andrew spoke about working with undergraduates, and how the transportable immersive Wonderama rigs have been fantastic for outreach and engagement with a wide range and number of different audiences.

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Penrith (Werrington South) – the Research Data Repository

Werrington South is the home of the UWS Library, which looks after the Research data repository. This infrastructure was partially funded by the Australian National Data Service. We also talked briefly about some of the High Performance Computing used by the Institute for Infrastructure Engineering (IIE) with assistance from eResearch and Intersect.

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This repository is one part of the data management fabric at UWS; its function is Archiving and Advertising data, other systems look after Acquiring data and providing a platform for researchers to Act on that data.

Figure “Four A” data management – how data flows from Acquisition to Action, to Archive and is Advertised to attract new collaborators


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Bankstown is home of the MARCS institute, where Prof Denis Burnham leads the $3M Human Communications Science Virtual Laboratory.

The lab brings together a growing range of data sets related to human communications, including speech, text and music, in a variety of formats, for use by a huge range of researchers across many disciplines.


Flying back to Hawkesbury, we come to the place where eResearch engagement with research has been the deepest, thanks to the Australian National Data Service (ANDS). Here we have the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment and their HIEv research data system, built for UWS by Intersect. This system started life as ANDS Data Capture project number 21 but we now like to think of it as the Acquire and Act front-end to the AAAA data management picture. Once the data’s been captured and the researchers have done research with it the UWS Research Data repository, and potentially discipline specific repositories take care of Archiving and Advertising for re-use.

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Final stop on this tour was Parramatta, with the Sydney CBD peeking out behind the ‘slide’. At Parramatta one of our most exciting engagement is with the newly minted Digital Humanities Research Group , led by Prof Paul Arthur. This group will eventually collaborate with every institute and school at UWS in one way or another. At the moment we’re working on developing a couple of new projects with the DH group, one of the things we want to be able to do is to locate archival and current data in time and space, particularly in Western Sydney.

We have been talking to new Research Fellow from the Institute for Culture and Society, Sarah Barns about projects involving geo-temporally located historical imagery, below is a screenshot from Cities In Time, one of Sarah’s previous projects.

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A look at the (potential) new airport

From Parramatta on the projected screen we switched to the Liquid Galaxy rig, where Andrew has a portable display made up of seven screens each driven by its own rack-mounted PC.

We went to have a look at the proposed new Sydney airport site at Badgerys Creek. Andrew had loaded one of the many plans for the airport into Google Earth and we were able to fly over it. Sure, you could do this in a browser on your laptop, but the wrap-around display gives a much better sense of place. This would be an ideal rig for hosting planning and strategy meetings, particularly when we get more data loaded; 3d models of various proposals, transport corridors, public health information, real estate price data, historical imagery (such as Not In My Backyard Airport protests) and so on. Here Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover and Associate PVCR Prof Deborah Sweeney discuss the shape of the airport. The effect of Google Earth, with the mocked-up image and the Wonderama display is rather like being in the observation deck on very stable blimp.

Historical images in modern context

We finished up with another visualization mock-up, this time using Google Street View (via seven coordinated web browser sessions all with a slightly different perspective) to locate historical images from the UWS Archives in a modern context. Here’s Barney checking out some pictures of the old Hawkesbury Agricultural College. We particularly like the one of the women, apparently from Sydney Uni cutting the grass at the college, some time in the 1920s. With Scythes no less! We’ll have to wait and see if this sparks any new collaboration with that particular institution.