Monash University

Monash University is one of Australia’s leading universities and ranks as one of the world’s top 100. Alongside top-level education, research-intensive organisations like Monash provide students and professionals access to the equipment and facilities they need to perform groundbreaking work.


Bring disconnected booking systems together in a functional way

Monash University recognised an opportunity to create a research equipment search engine that would bring information from different facilities into one place. Better utilisation of local resources increases opportunities to attract the best research talent, supporting local innovation and maintaining Monash’s stellar reputation.

Connecting researchers to the equipment they need

Universities like Monash, Swinburne and RMIT are collaborative – they share new resources and information to further their findings. Different universities have databases with unique ways of cataloguing the equipment and services they offer. Researchers often contact several facilities to understand whether the equipment they need is available and how to arrange access. Monash approached Conduct to design a portal called Arin (Australian Research Infrastructure Network); a platform to aggregate information from different universities. To make Arin functional, we had to solve a key challenge. How do we connect these resources through one portal when the data across organisations is so variable?

Normalising the data

Developing a functional, up-to-date search portal was not feasible when two pieces of the same equipment could have different descriptors depending on the organisation. Through four rounds of design, prototyping and user-testing, including input from workshops with a Swinburne University, RMIT, University of Melbourne and a Monash University steering committee, Conduct uncovered a solution: ask Arin’s users to validate its information, improving and normalising its data in one easy-to-navigate place. The next challenge was figuring out precisely what messaging – and where in the user journey – would best encourage researchers to validate Arin’s suggestions.

Plotting the user journey

User-testing uncovered two valuable insights. First, we learned researchers value collegiality and collaboration regardless of their organisation. They want others to have access to what they need, and they’ll share time and knowledge to make that happen. So, Conduct crafted Arin’s messaging to appeal to this motivator of altruism.

Second, testing showed that researchers were only inclined to provide feedback on subject matter they were familiar with. The solution? Shift Arin’s prompt for user feedback until after they’ve already searched and narrowed results according to their field.

Meet Arin: the Australian Research Infrastructure Network

Ultimately, Arin became a human-focussed tool that gathers information from participating research institutions and indexes it in one intuitive portal. It learns from those who use it via a nudge called ‘Train Arin.’ And once users have validated its suggestions, it sends this information to the Facility Manager to improve the data at the source. Victoria was just the beginning of Arin’s journey. Now, Conduct and Monash University are taking the solution to a national audience, and it’s set to be launched as a white-labelled product in international markets.

The tech

  • NodeJS and React – Arin is a multi-tenanted platform designed to be used by multiple universities. Each tenant can be configured and customised according to user needs. Arin currently runs as four front end applications. They call the same backend. There’s one search engine database, tagged to ensure only the correct data is called for each user.
  • AWS enterprise search takes data from external sources and plugs into elastic search.
  • We worked with admin users to create customised reporting and analytics around user behaviour and key words.

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