Jenni Harrison – Director, Strategic Projects & Engagement, Pawsey

Jenni understands what it is like to be a researcher accessing digital support services, having spent several years since her PhD in research, both within academia and industry. It informed her subsequent work applying novel digital technology at NHS Education for Scotland, and as the eResearch Policy Lead at the Ministry of Research Science and Technology in New Zealand.

Her considerable expertise on the delivery of collaborative Information and Communication Technology projects and working with stakeholders in research, management and government has been put to work at Pawsey over the last seven years, originally as Head of Data, but more recently as the Director of Strategic Projects and Engagement.

“I work at a strategic level across all areas of Pawsey, and interact with a wide range of people externally, which makes my role both challenging and really interesting,” Jenni revealed. “I help ensure that Pawsey supports researchers as effectively as possible. I’m not quite comparing supercomputing to trains, but it’s like managing any public utility – when it works well, most people are completely unaware of its presence, but they’re still dependent on its service to be able to function effectively.”

Depending on priorities and projects, Jenni can be found anywhere across Australia, ensuring strategic projects progress smoothly. “As a team, it’s great to feel like we’re making a difference, supporting others to make great scientific achievements. One of my roles is to codirect the Astronomy Data and Computing Services project. We’re working to provide astronomy-focused training, support and expertise to allow astronomers to optimise their data and computing infrastructure for ease of use. The aim is to allow the next generation of researchers to spend more time on astronomy challenges, and less time trying to figure out how to use the facilities.”

When looking forward, it is easy to take for granted how much has been achieved already, and how relatively recent some things have been. Jenni remembered: “About six years ago I asked my team if we could bring a ‘Big Data Week’ to Perth, to raise awareness of the opportunities with large scale data in research. At the time there were no organisations in the Southern Hemisphere participating in this global initiative. Thanks to the tireless efforts of several teams within Pawsey, ‘Data Science Week’ (www.datascienceweek.org) is now an annual collaborative week-long festival of events, all related to data science.”

Things are still changing: Jenni suspects that connectivity with other HPC centres and consortia is likely to grow in significance, along with running software from cloud-based environments, while deep learning, artificial intelligence and quantum computing are likely to have significant longer-term impacts. Jenni is clear about her role in all of this moving forward: “I’m working to make sure Pawsey is well placed to support Australian researchers working as part of both national and international research projects, and trying to make sure the individuals I support have as seamless (and happy) an experience as possible when working with us.”

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Jenni Harrison - Director, Strategic Projects and Engagement