The University of Sydney in partnership with the University of New South Wales and the University of Western Australia has today launched the ARC Training Centre in Data Analytics for Resources and Environments (DARE), which has been funded under a five-year grant from the Australian Research Council.
Bringing together industry and government, as well as data scientists, geoscientists, hydrologists, and ecologists from across Australia, DARE is the first cohort-based data science PhD training program in Australia.
The aim of the Centre is to develop and deliver the skills and tools for Australia’s resource industries: to be expert users of data and models; to quantify, explain and understand uncertainty; and to make the best possible evidence-based decisions in stewarding the nation’s natural resources and environment.
Led by Professor Sally Cripps from the University of Sydney, DARE uses data as a common language to build an exciting, multidisciplinary partnership between industry, government, leading educators and researchers in data science, and environmental sciences.
Professor Cripps said: “DARE’s academic, industry and government partners will drive transformational advances in the development and application of data science, build scale in training and human capacity, and deliver transformational outcomes for Australia’s resources and environment industries.”
“Many decisions and policies that concern the natural environment are based on limited amounts of data or rudimentary data analysis, with little appreciation of the critical role that both understanding and quantifying uncertainty play in the process.”
The Centre hopes to change this by combining rigorous mathematics with knowledge from applied scientists to quantify uncertainty.
Joining the launch remotely from Canberra, Australian Research Council Professor Sue Thomas said: “DARE has been established with nearly $4 million in funding from the Australian Research Council over five years. The Industrial Transformation Training Centre scheme is part of the ARC’s Linkage program which supports collaborative research activity between the Australian higher education sector and industry.”
Chair of the DARE advisory board and Director of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Professor Robert McLean said the ARC Centre was a shining example of collaboration between research institutions, government, and industry.
“DARE is actively collaborating not just with other universities, but with the private sector and government institutions to better understand and respond to some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.”
Professor Cripps said superficial uses of conventional ‘Big Data’ methods were often inadequate and potentially misleading, often creating a false sense of security.
“With a deep understanding of modern statistical machine learning methods, and by using approaches that capture uncertainty and ambiguity in data and models, more balanced trade-offs of cumulative risks can be defined,” said Professor Cripps.
“These skills and tools – delivered by DARE – are the keys to understanding, modelling and managing complex integrative natural resource systems and ultimately delivering on sustainable evidence-based economic and societal outcomes for the resources industry.
“The natural environment is characterised by many and varied stakeholders, all with different priorities and values. Resources are finite, and stakeholders compete for access with vastly different outcomes. For example, the economic return per gigalitre of water used in mining is some fifty times that in agriculture and yet we need both for a sustainable economy.
“Our vision to use data science and cutting-edge analysis is ambitious, but by bringing together a distinguished cohort of experts from academia and industry to provide a complete picture of the full impact of resource-based activities on the environment and society is achievable.”