ACU Research

We support our community of

researchers to achieve their goals


‘eResearch’ refers to the application of advanced information and communication technologies to the practice  of research, enabling new kinds of research processes. Support for eResearch services at ACU is available from the following areas:

ACU eResearch

Research Librarian (ACU Library)
Stephanie McGlinchey

ACU eResearch Analyst (Intersect)

Aidan Wilson is the ACU eResearch analyst based in Sydney. Researchers and support staff can contact Adian for  advice and assistance to optimise ACU’s research outcomes through the application of advanced ICT solutions. Aidan can support ACU eResearch activities via:

  • analysis, scoping, grant writing, software development, testing, deployment, and operations
  • needs gathering for software, hardware, and people
  • skills development
  • access to technical services provided by Intersect
  • high performance computing, data storage and management, and collaboration tools.

Contact  Aidan Wilson


phone: 02 8079 2546


eResearch Services

  • Data Storage
    • ACU Storage – on request, ACU IT offers secure and backed up storage for your research group or project.
    • SpaceShuttle / Aspera – a storage solution by Intersect that enables researchers to securely transfer, store, manage and share large amounts of active research data. Connection via high-speed AARNet at 10GBps, scale to petabytes of storage, manage access to your data safely and securely, using your ACU credentials, share and collaborate with other researchers from universities and research organisations. SpaceShuttle leverages IBM Aspera’s FaspTM transfer technology. For more information, refer to
  • Research Computing

    ACU eResearch will assist researchers in identifying appropriate research computing platforms to suit their unique needs:

    • High Performance Computing (HPC)– addresses higher-end research computing needs utilising parallel processing for running advanced application programs efficiently, reliably and quickly. HPC services are provided through Intersect and national HPC facilities.
    • Cloud Computing– the NeCTAR Research Cloud provides self-service capability for any researcher to publish research data, share knowledge and rapidly deploy and access software applications.
    • Application Hosting Services– involves Intersect working with researchers to deliver cloud-based delivery of research applications.
  • Grants Assistance

    ACU eResearch can assist you and your team to:

    • Develop data management plans.
    • Develop  estimates for the IT components of grant applications.
    • Include in‐kind contributions based on Intersect services, such as high performance computing (HPC) and consultation/advice.
    • Build collaborations where multi‐institutional collaborations are a requirement for application (e.g. ARC LIEF and NeCTAR).
  • Training

    ACU researchers and graduate research students have free access to a wide range of specialised courses, from beginner through to advanced levels in High-Performance Computing (HPC), Excel for research, data management and visualisation, cleaning and exploring data, and more.

    ACU online training
    Available to all ACU staff, offers online training on data analysis tools (such as SPSS) and more.
    Access to

    • Intersect training
      Delivered by a team of experts, these specialised courses for researchers are customised and regularly updated.  The training is provided at no cost to ACU researchers, research groups and graduate research students.Upcoming training:

      ·         27 Oct 2016: “Excel Fu: Excel for Researchers” at ACU North Sydney. Enrol now
      ·         28 Oct 2016: “Cleaning & Exploring your data with Open Refine” at ACU North Sydney. Enrol now
      ·         28 Oct 2016: “Data Visualisation with Google Fusion Tables” at ACU North Sydney. Enrol now
      ·         31 Oct 2016: “Intro to Unix” at ACU Strathfield. Enrol now
      ·         1 Nov 2016: “Powerful text searching and matching with Regexes” at ACU Strathfield. Enrol now
      ·         1 Nov 2016: “Regular Expressions on Command” at ACU Strathfield. Enrol now 

      Information on training:

  • Research IT Planning

    ACU eResearch can assist you and your team optimise research outcomes through the application of advanced ICT solutions. Among the services offered are:

    • Advice on the access, use and availability of high performance computing (HPC) capabilities.
    • Development of research data management plans to accommodate data storage and collaboration objectives.
    • Provision of information on Intersect ICT services to complement ACU services.
    • Recommendation of tools to enhance workflow and improve research productivity.
    • Analysis of researcher needs with the view to developing new tools/software where existing Intersect solutions are not adequate.
    • Sharing of best practice information from other universities, disciplines and research groups.
  • Research Data Management

    Good planning and practices begin at the start of a research project and are crucial in reducing the risks of data loss, saving time and resources, allowing data sharing and increasing your research profile through data citation.

    The RDM Plan is the document in which you describe your strategy to collect, organise, manage, store, secure, backup, preserve and share your data during and beyond the project lifecycle. It deals with matters such as retention and disposal, archiving, accessing, sharing or publishing the data and conditions or restrictions for data reuse. Short-term and long-term aims can be balanced so that decisions made early in a project do not negatively impact on the ability to find and use the research data in future.

    ACU’s eResearch Analyst, Dr Ghulam Murtaza is able to provide advice on Research Data Management plans to researchers. Ghulam can be contacted via: +61 0406201023


    In the video below ARC representatives explain the recent changes to the funding rule as they pertain to data and data management, followed by answering questions from the audience. The video description contains a list of the questions that were answered during the webinar and the time in the recording where the answer is located.



  • Research Tools

    A number of research tools and applications are available, including commercial or open source tools. Contact ACU eResearch to further discuss your needs. eResearch Tools currently available:

    REDCap –  a mature and secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. Using REDCap’s stream-lined process for rapidly developing projects, you may create and design projects using 1) the online method from your web browser using the Online Designer; and/or 2) the offline method by constructing a ‘data dictionary’ template file in Microsoft Excel, which can be later uploaded into REDCap. Both surveys and databases (or a mixture of the two) can be built using these methods. Furthermore, REDCap provides an API to directly interact with the projects from Stata, R, Python, Java etc

    Launchpod is a tool to deploy virtual machines (VMs) on the NeCTAR Research Cloud. Launchpod is designed like a wizard; it will take care of the technical aspects of spawning a VM by asking you some details. The research tools that can be built from Launchpod are:

    • Twitter Scraper– a tool to harvest Twitter for hashtags, phrases, exact tweets and specific users.
    • DIVER– a general purpose open source research data capture and sharing application.
    • Omeka– an open source Content Management System suitable for rich collections of data and images.
    • LimeSurvey– a tool to quickly create intuitive, powerful, online question-and-answer surveys.
    • MATLAB®– a powerful tool for numerical computation, visualisation, and programming.
    • Alveo– a virtual laboratory of tools for searching, analysing and annotating natural language datasets.
    • CSIRO Workspace– a powerful software platform for sharing scientific workflows in one coherent, simple environment.
    • RStudio– a free, powerful tool for statistical computing and graphics.

    Launchpod allows researchers to quickly establish a working version of the software without the need for specialised IT knowledge. The typical users of Launchpod are researchers who already use these tools on existing machines and want to use them in the cloud to improve collaboration, or upscale their use and take advantage of the NeCTAR computing environment; or those who want to experiment with these tools and evaluate them for their own projects without needing to configure their own machine to run them.

    All Australian Universities have access to Launchpod at no cost. For information on how to access Launchpod refer to

  • Intersect Membership

    Intersect is Australia’s largest full-service eResearch support agency. Intersect works closely with the research sector, including universities and public and private sector agencies.

    The Intersect portfolio of activities is designed to achieve their mission of realising research impact through technology.

    Intersect provides robust, innovative and collaborative technology to support world-class research to their member institutions. Intersect delivers storage and analysis platforms, custom engineering, expert consultation and training programs to thousands of researchers every year.As an Intersect member university, ACU can benefit from software engineering development at a subsidised rate.  Intersect builds research applications across all disciplines and across a broad range of IT service categories including project management, analysis, architecture, solution design, and software development.

    Examples of projects Intersect has assisted with software engineering development are:

    • Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB) – Health & Medical Research
      The ASRB web portal provides a secure environment for the collection and storage of research data. It has fine grained and flexible security, enabling online access to information for researchers in a controlled manner. It is the central resource for the entry, upload and download of the following information for the ASRB participants: clinical assessments; MRI brain scans; and management of genetic (blood) samples. The Clinical Assessment System laptop software enables officers to assess participants in the field and upload the information to the ASRB web portal later.
    • POSSUM mobile app – Health & Medical Research
      Fully operational and mobile, the POSSUM tablet app keeps collecting data when offline, syncing with a central database when back in wifi range. A tablet based project in the health and medical research space, POSSUM stands for Precise Observational System for the Safe Use of Medications.The POSSUM study aims to:

      • adapt and test an observational method for measuring medication administration errors suitable for use in Australian hospitals.
      • compare the type, rates and severity of medication administration error rates before and after various interventions.
      • assess whether interruptions and multitasking impact on medication administration errors.

      POSSUM was developed for the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW.

    • APProve Lite – Health & Medical Research
      Developed for the Kolling Institute, University of Sydney, APProve Lite is a novel mobile application to remind patients of what they have to do for their treatment, assess maternal breastfeeding outcomes, monitor maternal and infant infections and measure the acceptability of using the mobile app.
      APProve-Lite collects daily information on treatment compliance and symptoms related to the health and

Users in the Spotlight

  • Karen Caeyenberghs - Using High Performance Computing (HPC)

    Using high performance computing to help build the whole brain structural connectome

    Karen Caeyenberghs


    Karen joined the School of Psychology, now part of the Faculty of Health Sciences at ACU, in January 2015 as Senior Research Fellow. She has a strong background in behavioural neuroscience and experience with a variety of brain imaging methods, including Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), which makes it possible to visualise the white matter connections of the brain.  Karen tries to reveal critical insights at the interface between brain structure and connectivity, in relation to behaviour of different patient groups, mostly children with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


    She briefly presents her research below:

    Brain injury is the most frequent cause of disability and death among children, often as a result of traffic accidents. Many children with TBI are faced with persistent cognitive and motor deficits, which have substantial negative consequences for their quality of life. In previous DTI studies, we have related integrity of white matter connections and behavioural deficits in children with TBI, with the majority being focused on regional changes in specific brain tracts. This is possibly due to the continuing enthusiasm of researchers for the traditional localisationist view of the brain and the increasing accessibility of brain-mapping tools to researchers. While particular brain tracts are important for specific functions, the capacity of information flow within and between brain regions is also crucial. Within this perspective, the concept of ‘brain connectome‘ has emerged, referring to a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain.

    Such a framework has the advantage of being closer to our understanding of brain organisation. Specific brain functions, like executive functions, cognition and language, depend on the coherent activity of widely distributed networks. However, building this whole brain structural connectome as a computer model requires a huge amount of memory  and long calculation times. Therefore, such analysis is only possible using High Performance Computing (HPC). Intersect’s HPC systems use large-scale clusters of computers and parallel processing techniques that enable research activities through complex system modeling and solve sophisticated computational problems.

    In addition, HPC systems have vastly increased memory and storage. The single compute nodes in the cluster are connected via a high speed, low latency Infiniband interconnects which allows for parallel usage of many nodes in a single job. The availability of the cluster are above 92% allowing for long running jobs (up to 8 days for a job on an unlimited number of nodes). The disk storage subsystem offers high speed and high availability. The used file system is PanFS which a parallel, global file system. In addition, each compute node has a local scratch disk for temporary results. All this leads to a high performing system.

    While the connectome analysis for a set of participants would take 48 to 60 hours on a desktop machine, same analysis on Intersect HPC clusters would typically yield high quality results in less than one hour.

    Using Intersect for the current project, we will be able to address the effects of a Virtual Reality training on structural networks, providing a window into neuroplasticity in TBI patients. These insights will provide a foundation for therapy to maximise recovery after brain damage.

  • More stories coming soon