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Topical tropical data gets its own hub

A data hub that will become a world-wide resource for research in and of the tropics was launched at JCU on June 5 by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans.

June 5, 2012: - A data hub that will become a world-wide resource for research in and of the tropics will be launched at James Cook University on June 5 by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans

The Tropical Data Hub will contain information and research on the physical and natural environment, societies and communities and economies of the tropical world and will be readily accessible to researchers, governments, and the business sector.

The Director of JCU’s eResearch Centre, Professor Ian Atkinson, said the hub would be an open portal enabling researchers to submit information elating to the tropics in an open and collaborative way.

“It complements existing data repositories and will come to be acknowledged as a definitive source of information relating to the tropics, both within Australia and internationally,” he said.

JCU’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Sandra Harding, said that it was important to have a central repository for tropical data because more than 40% of the world’s population and 85% of the world’s biodiversity is in the tropics.

“This region faces some of the most pressing issues of our time, including environmental variability and change, rapid population growth, social and economic inequalities, political instability, disease and poor access to healthcare,” she said.

“At the same time, the nations of the tropics have rapidly growing economies, along with burgeoning middle classes, and thereby present significant opportunities for Australia to export science, knowledge, innovation and technology. Reliable and accessible information is an important element in realising the potential.”

Professor Harding said that it was appropriate for the data hub to be located at JCU as the University was originally established more than 40 years ago to be Australia’s university for the tropics.

“We have re-affirmed that in recent years with the Statement of our Strategic Intent being to create ‘a brighter future for life in the tropics world-wide through graduates and discoveries that make a difference’,” she said.

The data from the JCU-led State of the Tropics report, to be released later this year, bringing together statistical information on the tropics through a broad range of indicators will be accessible through the Tropical Data Hub.

JCU is collaborating with the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, as well as other research institutions with tropical research interests, to establish the TDH.

The development of the data hub has been made possible through ANDS, which is funded through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and Super Science Initiative, and QCIF.

Senator Evans will be given a demonstration of the Hub’s capacity and importance.

Several projects will be showcased:

  • ScienceMob Sustainability Education Project - A community project being undertaken by JCU staff and students in conjunction with Townsville City Council to monitor the impact of a white roof in tropical climates on energy costs. [The Minister will have the opportunity to meet the students involved in the project];

  • The Vector Ecology and Control Network (VECNET) to analyse malaria transmission and its reduction by mosquito control interventions by researchers from the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance; and

  • The State of the Tropics Project – The Minister will have the opportunity to view data and findings from an Early Insight on Life Expectancy to be released world-wide soon.

Earlier, Senator Evans will visit the Indigenous Health Unit of the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences.

The Unit was established in 2003 to provide a focus for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health issues and strategies across the Faculty, including:

  • Improving Indigenous student enrolment and retention through dedicated support programs and strategies;

  • Strengthening the capacity of the Faculty, through the development and provision of relevant and appropriate Indigenous health curriculum;

  • Raising the profile of health professionals’ degrees and the Faculty within local communities;

  • Advocating for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health issues within the Faculty & broader University community;

  • Strengthening Faculty links with local Indigenous communities, and

  • Building the Faculty’s capacity to engage in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander research.

Through its community engagement activities, support strategies and involvement in admission procedures for the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences the IHU has contributed to the high numbers of Indigenous students graduating from health professions at JCU.

This year alone, the IHU is providing support to more than 200 Indigenous students currently enrolled in health programs at JCU.

Issued: June 5, 2012

JCU Media Liaison, Jim O’Brien 07 4781 4822 or 0418 892449