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CeRDI Newsletter Summer 2016

Message from the Director

Welcome to the first issue of CeRDI's quarterly newsletter, showcasing the range of research undertaken in the Centre.

This newsletter presents updates about our eResearch projects and partnerships, and outlines the innovative work of CeRDI as well as our contribution to digital innovation and eResearch across Federation University.

2015 was an exciting year for the Centre. A number of CeRDI projects have grown in strength and capacity during the year. Online Farm Trials and Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat have both evolved throughout the year and ongoing research is providing substantial insights into the uptake and application of digital technologies within the relevant communities.

We were delighted to be finalists and to receive a number of prestigious award nominations for research initiated in CeRDI. The Corangamite Soil Health Knowledge Base received a 2015 Victorian Spatial Excellence Award in the Environment and Sustainability category while Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat and Visualising Ballarat received the Victorian Spatial Excellence Award for People and Community.

During the last quarter of 2015 several opportunities arose to forge new partnerships both at home, and overseas. Senior researchers from Latin America visited CeRDI in September as part of the Australia Awards Fellowship Program. Their visit enabled a shared understanding of potential opportunities for digital innovation around agricultural futures.

Likewise, my visit to Vietnam in November as a member of the Agriculture Group for the Regional Universities Network enabled a shared understanding of the research and collaboration opportunities that exist between our two countries around farming practices, drought, climate change, knowledge and technology transfer.

Both experiences highlight the potential for digital innovation and eResearch within agriculture both nationally and internationally.

CeRDI's growing Higher Degree by Research program has been further expanded with two PhD scholarships in collaboration with the Regional Universities Network and one PhD scholarship in collaboration with National ICT Australia.

We look forward to extending our research collaborations across 2016 and to sharing information on initiatives with you.

Assoc Prof Helen Thompson
Director, CeRDI

February 2016

In this issue:

Promoting the city's rich history with Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat

During 2015, CeRDI and the City of Ballarat collaborated on the Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat web portal. The portal is one of the strategies developed for Ballarat as a member of the Historic Urban Landscape international pilot programme, an approach recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 to ensure cities retain their character, landscape and cultural significance as they grow.

Using innovative spatial mapping and knowledge management tools, an interactive web portal that engages the community and enables users to easily access authoritative and credible information has been developed. An associated project, Visualising Ballarat, offers state-of-the-art knowledge management and urban planning tools to assist in assessing and monitoring change.

Impact research is being led by Dr Angela Murphy to gather insights from key stakeholders. The first wave of research captured substantial baseline data to support the assessment of the longer-term impacts of Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat. As an outcome of this research, recommendations were provided to support future developments of Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat and Visualising Ballarat. Research examining impacts on practice across and within community, planning, business and research environments will occur in the future.

Unlocking grains research with Online Farm Trials

Online Farm Trials research, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, applies digital technologies to provide first-time access to a vast library of grains industry research.

Online Farm Trials began in late 2013 as an initiative to develop a user friendly online resource for accessing information about grains research trials. It is assisting grain growers, agronomists, Grains Research and Development Corporation staff, government representatives and researchers by providing effective access to trial and related climate, soil and natural resource information. The aim of Online Farm Trials is to improve the productivity and sustainability of farming enterprises through enhanced access to trial research information. This is expected to lead to better use of past research results and more rapid implementation of research findings.

Online Farm Trials involves wide collaboration with industry and stakeholders including the Northern Grower Alliance, Liebe Group, Southern Farming Systems, Nicon Rural Services and the International Plant Nutrition Institute. Industry consultants are providing specialist advice in relation to agronomist and grower information needs. This has been further informed by extensive stakeholder consultation with industry and grower groups across Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

Dr Angela Murphy is undertaking research to explore factors relating to project implementation and development, knowledge building, behaviour change and informed decision making. The impact of Online Farm Trials on decision making and practice change, farm development and environmental management processes, as well as enterprise enhancement and opportunities for broader intergenerational change will be explored through this research.

Gunaikurnai Information Hub

Federation University has entered into an arrangement to establish the Gunaikurnai Information Hub. The project is a collaboration with the Gunaikurnai Traditional Owner Land Management Board, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation and Federation University.

CeRDI's role is to develop and deliver an information hub to facilitate information sharing relevant to the development and implementation of joint management of the Appointed Lands. CeRDI's innovative eResearch technologies and practices will be applied to empower knowledge custodians with the capability to share their information and data in the same virtual space without losing custodianship or ownership of the information.

With input from stakeholders these technologies and tools will seamlessly link information from Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Aboriginal Affairs, the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other relevant information sources.

The Gunaikurnai information Hub will provide support for the joint management of parks and reserves, with Traditional Owners playing a central role in managing these lands into the future. It is anticipated that the Gunaikurnai Information Hub will inspire and encourage the broadest possible stakeholder participation and provide a platform for information dissemination and engagement across the community.

Federation University researchers Assoc Prof Fred Cahir and Sarah McMaster are contributing to this project through the preparation of a literature review and report on the Gunaikurnai traditional ecological knowledge of fire. CeRDI researchers will explore the impact of the Gunaikurnai Information Hub on decision making and practice change.

Mapping and Understanding Bushfire and Natural Hazard Vulnerability

The Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University is undertaking research for the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. CeRDI has partnered in this research to build an economic geography from spatial data linked to a range of economic, social and environmental values and natural hazards data, creating maps of values at risk.

The initial focus of the project is bushfire and natural hazard vulnerability in Victoria. As the project evolves it is expected that the focus will be expanded to Australia.

Spatial mapping of the endangered Leadbeater's possum

A partnership between the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and CeRDI has led to the development of an interactive spatial map of the endangered Leadbeater's possum, the faunal emblem of Victoria.

The Leadbeater's possum is critically endangered and found only in some forested regions in Victoria's Central Highlands and in small regional pockets to the north and east of Melbourne. Efforts to halt the decline of the species have resulted in a range of State Government initiatives including the establishment of spatial maps of possum colonies across Victoria.

The CeRDI team has collaborated with staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to develop the web-based interactive map of the Leadbeater's possum, thus enabling access to the most current, location-specific data of all known colonies.

The Leadbeater's Possum Interactive Map offers a gateway of information to support species conservation activities and environmental management and planning for specific colonies across Victoria. Data available via the map provides location-specific details of all pre-existing and new possum colonies since 1988. The range of mapping options provides greater insights about the location of colonies in relation to important landmarks, infrastructure and the environmental landscape.

Victoria's Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Gillian Sparks said the new interactive map was an example of using digital platforms to encourage citizens to engage in science.

Exploring precision agriculture opportunities in Vietnam

During November 2015, CeRDI Director Assoc Prof Helen Thompson joined a Regional Universities Network delegation which visited Vietnam to establish collaborations through joint research interests in agriculture.

The program included site visits, seminars and workshops across multiple locations in Vietnam. Delegates met counterparts from universities and government with the aims of the delegation including:

  • Research collaboration for regional development (Vietnam-Australia)
  • Establishing networks between key stakeholders across universities, institutions, departments and rural communities
  • Developing joint projects to enable staff and student exchanges with the aim of establishing multi-disciplinary research projects
  • Identifying learning and teaching opportunities between institutions in Australia and Vietnam

Since returning to Australia the Regional Universities Network Vietnam Agriculture Group is continuing to explore new collaborative research opportunities between Regional Universities Network universities and institutions in Vietnam.

Federation University visited by Latin-American university delegates

In September 2015 a delegation of Latin American academics and senior government advisors visited Federation University as part of the Australian Awards Fellowship Latin America Program. CeRDI's Associate Professor Helen Thompson presented to the group and outlined the research focus for the Centre.

Networking opportunities enabled delegates to share their knowledge - and to learn more about the capabilities of Federation University researchers - and to identify opportunities to internationalise research, accelerate innovation and competitiveness in areas including agriculture, mining, water, energy, health and climate change.

Discussions between delegates and Federation University staff provided a brief but valuable opportunity to explore potential research collaborations, including research fellowship exchanges and joint PhD programs.
The visit helped establish collegiate connections between Federation University and our Latin American counterparts which, it is hoped, will be developed further, in the future.

Researching the impact of the DigiBiz program

An impact evaluation of the CeRDI-led Central Highland Digital Enterprise program was conducted during 2015 to gauge awareness of broadband capabilities and to assess skills development outcomes for program participants.

DigiBiz, the Central Highlands Digital Enterprise program, commenced in 2012 as an Australian Government-funded initiative. CeRDI partnered with regional stakeholders, Regional Development Australia (Grampians Region), and the City of Ballarat, Golden Plains, Hepburn and Pyrenees Shires to deliver a skills development program through workshops and mentoring aimed at assisting regional businesses and not-for-profit entities. Over 3,000 participants representing a range of business and community organisations participated in the program.

The impact research sought feedback from program participants, mentors and workshop facilitators; 100 program participants and nine mentor and workshop facilitators participated.

The research demonstrated that workshops and mentoring had been successful in broadening participants' internet use within their businesses and organisations. The research also identified that the program had enhanced participants' skills development, increased their awareness and understanding and provided them with general assistance across a range of online applications.

The research findings are now being prepared for publication.

State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams research

The State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams network is an initiative supported by CeRDI and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to advance citizen science by facilitating awareness and knowledge sharing in relation to biodiversity conservation and threatened species for Victoria.

CeRDI has received funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to engage with the biodiversity stakeholders and enhance planning. Funding will also advance activities associated with the Visualising Victoria's Biodiversity interoperable knowledge management portal.

Health Justice Partnership: A new program for at risk youth in the Central Highlands

CeRDI, in collaboration with Central Highlands Community Legal Centre (CHCLC) and Ballarat Community Health, have established the Central Highlands Health Justice Partnership. The program was established and launched during 2015 and delivers an integrated medical and legal service with a lawyer from CHCL based at Ballarat Community Health.

The Health Justice Partnership provides early intervention for legal and health issues to improve the outcomes for disadvantaged young people experiencing multiple health and legal issues. The program has been funded by a major grant from the Victorian Legal Services Board.

Research is now underway to examine the impacts and outcomes of the program, furthering the current understanding of health justice partnerships in the Australian context.

Staff profile: Paul Feely

Paul Feely, Senior Programmer in CeRDI, was undertaking an Honours degree in Computing when he first connected with the Centre for eCommerce and Communication (now CeRDI) and sought assistance with developing online applications for his Honours project. Paul was subsequently mentored by Andrew MacLeod, CeRDI manager, technical projects, to become a junior web developer. Subsequently, Paul commenced part-time work in CeCC which has since led to a career as a programmer.

Today Paul is a highly skilled, full-stack programmer with over 10 years' experience developing online applications utilising open source technologies for a diverse range of clients. The scope of Paul's role includes requirements gathering, application and database design, testing, front end programming (Including HTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery, Bootstrap, Ajax, Openlayers, Leaflet) and back end development (Including PHP, MySQL, Apache, Linux, Geoserver). Paul has been involved in the development and support of many core systems that underpin CeRDI's technical offerings and is part of the team responsible for their ongoing uptime.

Paul's experience has meant that he is working across many of CeRDI's flagship projects, including Sport and Recreation Spatial, an online graphical information system combining sport participation and trends, sport facility locations, health data, socio-economic data and population projections: Paul is the lead programmer and technical consultant for Online Farm Trials (

Alongside this, Paul has developed a range of Federation University programming systems and applications including Federation University Apprentice and Trainee Online Management System, Federation University Commute and Federation University News.

Paul's association with CeRDI has provided him with the skills and experience that have established his career. He has also observed, first hand, the extensive growth in the Centre witnessing the Centre's staff transformation from only three members in 2003 to over 30 staff in 2016.

When he isn't working across four computer screens in the CeRDI office Paul can be found at the local kart club. Paul is an avid karter and the president of the Ballarat Kart Club. Paul is also an amateur photographer and a terrible golfer!

Higher Degree by Research student profile: Himalaya Singh

Himalaya Singh has a background in Information Technology and Spatial Information Science. He commenced his PhD in March 2014 and has applied these skills in the sports and physical activity setting. Having a passion for sports and a mind set for spatial thinking, his research focuses on using geospatial methods in the sport injury prevention context. Himalaya's research aim is to provide evidence to policy makers that will lead to better informed decisions in prevention programs and policy development.

Geospatial methods have been used in other injury research to identify target communities for injury prevention programs and to better understand injury aetiology. However, there have been very few studies that have used geospatial methods or spatial epidemiological approaches to understand sports injuries. Himalaya's investigation will apply novel applications of spatial epidemiological approaches to sports injury data, which will offer significant benefits for injury surveillance, allocation of resources and development of effective injury prevention programs. The data he has obtained for his research includes sports and recreational injury hospitalisations data from the Victoria Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU) for 2000-2013.

Himalaya's research is divided into four different stages: (1) investigation of geographical or spatial variation of sports and leisure-related injury hospitalisations, (2) identify clusters of sport and leisure injury hospitalisations, (3) investigating associations between sports delivery and environmental factors and sports injuries and (4) development of Atlas of Sports and Leisure Injuries (ASLI).

Himalaya has completed his confirmation of candidature and has already begun publishing his research in peer reviewed journals (Singh H, Fortington LV, Eime R, Thompson H, Finch CF, 'Spatial epidemiology: A new approach for understanding and preventing sport injuries', Australasian Epidemiologist 2015) and has presented at local and national conferences.

Supervisors: Prof Caroline Finch (ACRISP); Assoc Prof Helen Thompson (CeRDI); Dr Lauren Fortington (ACRISP) and Assoc Prof Rochelle Eime (Faculty of Health Federation University and ISEAL Victoria University)

News snippets

2015 Victorian International Education Awards

CeRDI was selected as a finalist in the 'Excellence in Innovation in Industry Partnerships' category of the Victorian International Education Awards 2015. These awards recognise the outstanding achievements of innovative education institutions, companies and service providers delivering excellence in international education.

Geography Teachers Association of Australia

Discussions are currently underway with the Geography Teachers' Association of Victoria for Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat and FedUni Spatial to be included as curriculum resources for primary and secondary students. FedUni Spatial showcases the diverse range of innovative spatial information systems and projects that Federation University is supporting through CeRDI.

Dementia Pathways Tool

A central website has been established for the Dementia Pathways Tool, enabling access to the tools for the Grampians and South East Melbourne regions from the one site. A short video with Assoc Prof Mark Yates has been developed to introduce the Dementia Pathways Tool to General Practitioners and Practice Nurses.

Great South Coast Digital Strategy

CeRDI and Lateral Plains are conducting research to inform the development of a digital strategy for the Great South Coast region. The strategy will examine the region's business uptake of digital solutions, level of digital maturity in businesses and identify exemplar businesses contributing to the region's digital economy. Research findings will be presented in a final report in the coming months.

2015 Victorian Spatial Excellence Awards

The Victorian Spatial Excellence Awards recognise initiatives that make a difference to national, regional and local issues and effect communities via grassroots initiatives, education programs, services or tools that facilitate widespread adoption of spatially enabled products. Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat and Visualising Ballarat were awarded the 2015 Victorian Spatial Excellence Award in the 'People and Community' category. The Corangamite Soil Health Knowledge Base received the 2015 Victorian Spatial Excellence Award in the 'Environment and Sustainability' category.

Federation University/National ICT Australia PhD Scholarship

A National ICT Australia PhD scholarship was recently awarded under the Smart Cities theme for Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat. The research will focus on developing visualisation tools capable of dynamically modelling data in international open standards format, being consumed from interoperable systems. The research will build on the existing interoperable technologies to federate Historic Urban Landscape information, data and databases for the City of Ballarat. The successful candidate was Shirish Sharma and he will commence his studies at CeRDI in 2016.

Research outputs

Dr Angela Murphy presented at a Historic Urban Landscape symposium on 4 December 2015 at The Royal Society in Melbourne. The symposium was organised to explore the next steps in implementing the Historic Urban Landscape. Angela presented findings from the recent impact research conducted for Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat and presented alongside other national and international researchers.

The findings of social impact research on Visualising Victoria's Groundwater were recently published by CeRDI researchers in the Journal of Hydroinformatics.

VicHealth Award Finalist

Sport and Recreation Spatial was a finalist in the 'Research into Action' category of the 2015 VicHealth Awards. Sport and Recreation Spatial investigates sport and recreation participation and facilities and their relationship with health. CeRDI developed the spatial mapping tools and website for the project.

Federation University/Regional Universities Network PhD Scholarships

CeRDI has recently awarded two PhD scholarships in collaboration with Regional Universities Network partners to undertake research in precision agriculture. The two areas of research to be undertaken by the HDR students include:

  • The derivation of geospatial intelligence though developing and implementing interoperable agricultural data exchange standards
  • Capturing and integrating legacy data into precision agriculture

The successful candidates for these scholarships were Chris Bahlo and Thomas Hill. They will commence their studies at CeRDI in 2016.

CeRDI featured in Government review

CeRDI was the subject of a case study on university and business collaboration as part of the Commonwealth Government's Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements. As part of the review process universities were invited to submit case studies to highlight particularly productive relationships they have formed with the end users of research. CeRDI was also mentioned as a primary example of the value of building long-term relationships and growing partnerships starting from small projects.

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About CeRDI

CeRDI is a multidisciplinary research centre which sits within Federation University's office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation). CeRDI undertakes research in the application of information technologies to transform practice in its partner organisations and more broadly. CeRDI's research is applied in areas including the natural environment, agriculture, health and wellbeing, hazards planning and resilience, heritage and culture, and regional development. Underpinning CeRDI's research are the three pillars of data discoveries, innovations in technologies and longitudinal societal impact research. Additional information on CeRDI and its research activities may be obtained from the CeRDI annual reports and documentary films.

Contact CeRDI

Our general contact details are outlined below. If you wish to contact a particular staff member please check our staff page for contact details.

Mailing address
Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation
Federation University
PO Box 691
Ballarat Victoria 3353

Office address
Suite 15, Greenhill Enterprise Centre
Ballarat Technology Park
University Drive, Mount Helen

Phone: +61 3 5327 9314

Find us

CeRDI is located at the Ballarat Technology Park in the Greenhill Enterprise Centre building. Ballarat Technology Park is located in Mount Helen, south east of Ballarat, off Geelong Road, heading towards Buninyong. Detailed directions are included below on the interactive map.

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