The free software, known as Workspace, is purpose-built for scientific applications and allows researchers to present their findings through stunning visualisations.
Developed over the past eight years at CSIRO, Workspace has already been used for a wide range of projects, including natural disaster modelling, human movement and industrial and agricultural research.
One CSIRO team has already used the software to model and visualise simulations for storm surges and flash flooding, helping with disaster management planning. Working with the Australian Institute of Sport, another team has produced a 3D biomechanical computer model of different swimming strokes, allowing athletes to adjust their technique for maximum performance.
Dr John Taylor from CSIRO’s Digital Productivity Flagship said the software offered huge efficiency savings for researchers from all fields who work with datasets and complex analysis, freeing them up to spend more time focused on their scientific expertise.
“In institutions all around the world, researchers operate within similar workflows; sourcing data, analysing it, processing it – often using high-performance computing environments,” Dr Taylor said. “Very often, this involves a number of manual repetitive steps.
“Workspace makes these steps easy to automate. In one application, analysis that had previously taken two weeks to conduct manually was carried out in less than an hour.
“Scientists also need to publish the outcomes of their research. Workspace allows them to easily release the software and analysis that backs up their findings.” According to Dr Taylor, another advantage of Workspace is that users don’t need advanced programming skills and it runs on many different platforms and environments.
“At the moment, scientists often have to write their own purpose-built code from scratch – even when this is not their primary skill set,” he said. “This approach is inefficient, prone to error, difficult to reproduce by other scientists and unsuitable to take into the commercial world.
“Workspace can be used by non-software experts, allowing scientists from all over the globe to use the same platform and collaborate seamlessly on projects.”
As well as these benefits, Workspace’s data visualisations can help scientists make their research more understandable and accessible.
“If others can easily grasp what your science means, this opens it up to brand new audiences,” Dr Taylor said. “This not only helps researchers engage with the public, but it also allows them to reach out to other collaborators in the science community and industry.”
Workspace has already been used successfully by scientists at University College London, and locally by research institutions including the Australian National University, Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales.
Workspace is being launched today at the 2014 eResearch Australasia Conference [external link]. It is free to download for research purposes and can be licensed for commercial applications.