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New program helps secure data

29 April, 2010

Monash researchers have developed a revolutionary online data management program that is being used by scientists at the Australian Synchrotron and exported to institutions around the world.

The MyTARDIS/TARDIS program solves a global research data collection and management challenge.

Developed by biochemist Associate Professor Ashley Buckle and software engineer Steve Androulakis, the program gives researchers a place where they can securely store research information. It also provides, via the internet, the opportunity to share the most complex of scientific data.

"The program records the data generated from an experiment, catalogues it, making it searchable, and transfers it back to the home institution, where the researcher can analyse the data using MyTARDIS, then make it publicly available on the TARDIS system alongside publication of the results in a scientific journal," Associate Professor Ashley Buckle said.

"Before MyTARDIS, if I was using a synchrotron, I had to lug an external hard-drive to the facility with me to save my data. That could be a trip across the road to the Australian synchrotron at Clayton, but if the research was conducted overseas, precious raw data had to be carried back through airports and in luggage. If anything happened to that hard-drive, more than a year's worth of work could be lost forever."

The MyTARDIS/TARDIS software, which took two years to develop, also solves the problem for researchers of how best to share their data.

"Trying to upload and download images and complex information over the internet is time consuming and fraught with failure. Our software has created a central place where researchers can exchange information rapidly and securely. Sharing data with colleagues from around the world is an essential aspect of modern day research, and technology use is integral to our success."

The project has been developed with the support of the Monash e-Research Centre (MeRC), the Victorian e-Research Strategic initiative (VeRSI), the Australian Synchrotron and the Australian National Data Service (ANDS).

MeRC director Professor Paul Bonnington said the project required software engineer Steve Androulakis to work side by side with the scientists in the laboratories and believes this project is just the beginning for further collaboration between science and technology, which will open up a whole new world of possibilities for researchers.

"Embedding software developers in laboratories with scientists is a practice that the Centre is now employing across the University in a number of disciplines. Software developers like Steve will continue working for MeRC under funding provided by ANDS to do similar projects," Professor Bonnington said.

"The correct technological tools needed to be developed for scientists to continue delivering cutting edge research outcomes. The TARDIS project has shown that the most effective way of achieving positive outcomes is to have the people who are developing the technologies situated at the coal face."

Source: Monash University

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