NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Building Australia’s Research Future: Getting the A in the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons

JENNY FEWSTER'S address at the 2023 DDDCA symposium compiled by MARY FILSELL

On November 3, 2023, Jenny Fewster, Director, HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons (RDC), Australian Research Data Commons, addressed the Deans and Directors of Creative Arts conference with her talk, “Getting the A into the HASS and Indigenous RDC.” Her objective was twofold: to shed light on the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and, more specifically, the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and Indigenous Research Data Commons (HASS and Indigenous RDC), and to extend an invitation to the audience of the Deans and Directors of Creative Arts conference to participate in the largest investment in HASS infrastructure Australia has ever witnessed.

The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) 

The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) serves as Australia’s peak research data infrastructure facility, dedicated to accelerating research and innovation by fostering excellence in the creation, analysis, and retention of data assets. Over the past decade, the ARDC has collaborated with researchers, universities, government agencies, and international organisations to establish cutting-edge digital research infrastructure, offering Australian researchers a competitive advantage through data.

Demystifying Research Data Commons  

A ‘Research Data Commons’ (RDC), is a virtual space that brings together people, skills, data, and associated resources to facilitate world-class data-intensive research. Guided by the FAIR and CARE principles, these RDCs ensure data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable, where ethically possible, a critical foundation for collaborative research.

Over 25 Million invested into the HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons

Soon after Jenny Fewster’s presentation, the ARDC publicly announced that the ARDC-led HASS and Indigenous RDC received the largest ever investment in HASS research infrastructure in Australia. The $25 million grant from the Australian Government’s 2023 National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Funding Round, along with co-investment from national partners, will enable continuation of the delivery of long-term, enduring national digital research infrastructure to support HASS and Indigenous researchers in Australia. 

This grant is in addition to the $8.9 million received from NCRIS to establish the HASS and Indigenous RDC, which was launched in 2021.

“We welcome the Australian Government’s investment in establishing research infrastructure to support researchers to harness research data to enhance Australian social and cultural wellbeing, and help understand and preserve our culture, history and heritage.”

Jenny Fewster

Achievements: HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons 

Over the past 2 years, the HASS and Indigenous RDC has delivered data infrastructure identified in the previous funding round from the Australian Government, including enhancing the National Library of Australia’s Trove catalogue to benefit researchers, saving at-risk datasets, launching the Australian Text Analytics Platform, creating a central infrastructure for access and authorisation to HASS and Indigenous research data and tools, and creating the Gazetteer of Historic Australian Places.

Projects of the HASS and Indigenous RDC currently include:

  • the Language Data Commons of Australia 
  • The Integrated Research Infrastructure for Social Sciences
  • Improving Indigenous Research Capabilities
  • the ARDC Community Data Lab.

Creative Arts and Expansion Plans

The new funding ensures the continuous expansion of the HASS and Indigenous RDC until 2028, broadening its scope to include media(ted) data and the Creative Arts. This extension is aimed at providing enduring digital infrastructure to meet Australia’s future research needs.

Co-Design Approach

The ARDC’s co-design and co-investment approach will involve collaboration with the HASS and Indigenous research community, including a call to the Creative Arts research community to help shape programs and projects aligning with community-identified digital infrastructure requirements. 

The HASS and Indigenous RDC is one of 3 national-scale Thematic Research Data Commons led by the ARDC in partnership with the research community. The Thematic Research Data Commons are designed to meet Australia’s future research needs with long-term, enduring digital infrastructure.

The new funding from the Australian Government will be invested through the ARDC’s co-design and co-investment approach to building digital research infrastructure. As leaders in the Creative Arts, your insights are invaluable to shaping the future of data driven research infrastructure in the Creative Arts. 

In early 2024, we will work with the HASS and Indigenous research community, including the creative arts community, to co-design the programs and projects that will meet the digital infrastructure needs of researchers now and in the future. We invite you to get involved by registering your interest in the HASS and Indigenous RDC

The HASS and Indigenous RDC also integrates the ARDC’s underpinning compute, storage infrastructure and services, including the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud. It is supported by our extensive expertise, and work on developing community-agreed standards and best practices. The program is also upskilling researchers from research institutions and Indigenous-owned organisations to use data-driven approaches to HASS and Indigenous research.

These coordinated, structured, and complementary activities are building data assets, tools, and skills that will constitute a national ‘knowledge infrastructure’ that enables Australian researchers to transform our lives.

We invite the Creative Arts community to help shape the development of digital research infrastructure. Get involved in upcoming consultations by registering your interest in the HASS and Indigenous RDC.


Jenny Fewster is Director of HASS and Indigenous Research Data Commons. Jenny has over 20 years’ experience in collecting, managing and disseminating research and cultural heritage data and resources, Jenny is passionate about delivering quality research infrastructure and data to meet the diverse needs of HASS and Indigenous researchers.

Mary Filsell is a Data Consultant (SA, WA & NT) with Australian Research Data Commons. Backed by over 20 years supporting and promoting research across HASS and STEM, Mary is passionate about connecting researchers with competitive advantage through data and driving excellence in their creation, analysis and retention of high-quality data assets.

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