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About D61+ Expert Connect

Innovation is a key driver of business competitiveness, economic growth, and ultimately improved living standards. According to estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as much as 50 per cent of long-term economic growth in its member countries can be attributed to innovation, and this contribution is expected to grow 

- Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 2016.

Research and development is a key driver of innovative activity, however the costs associated with R&D infrastructure are beyond the reach of many small businesses. For this reason it is important for Australian businesses to have access to pre-existing R&D generated through public funding and to the expertise behind it. Indeed, collaboration with research organisations including Australian universities and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has been shown to increase the likelihood of reported annual productivity growth within a business by more than three times.

However, according to the 2016 Australian Innovation System Report produced by the Department of Industry, Australian businesses continue to report a lack of access to skilled personnel as a barrier to innovation. Data supports this sentiment and suggests that Australia’s innovation ecosystem (particularly in the areas of business to research and business to business collaboration) is weakly networked.

Data61’s ‘Expert Connect’ has been created in response to this major divide in Australia’s innovation ecosystem, to help support the activity of existing innovation facilitators and to unlock the knowledge contained within Australia’s premier research institutions for the benefit of the Australian public. Additionally, the benefits of the platform have been designed to be shared as widely as possibly, with open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allowing for the integration and further development of the underlying data.

Developed in just 17 weeks and released on the 28th of June 2017, this Beta version provides a glimpse into the potential of the tool, which will grow as the data sources which feed it expand and as the platform evolves to meet a wider range of user needs.

About Expert Connect FindHer Search

FindHer is a service that aims to make female researchers more easily discoverable, without pushing the profile maintenance burden on to women. Also central to our objectives is the easy discoverability of female profiles in the same places that people look for researchers in general.

All the profile data within Expert Connect is freely available via API and can be used by anyone looking to build their own directory, or undertake research.

We hope that all great initiatives to promote women can draw on and utilise Expert Connect data to support their work.


A common excuse for male domination in a range of endeavours is that suitable women couldn’t be found. This has led to a proliferation of initiatives encouraging women to list their details in various directories that are then promoted to conference organisers, company boards, investor groups, the media and beyond. Whilst playing a vital role in promoting women and enhancing their chances of discovery, these various lists put the onus on women to create and update their profiles across multiple platforms. This can be incredibly time consuming and repetitive work that may or may not result in any extra opportunities (given the importance of established networks).

While we recognise that gender isn't binary (and of course shouldn't be an issue at all), female representation remains critically low in a range of industries, including the research sector. 

It is imperative that we do better. 


Given the public data that already exists, we can be smarter in how we manage the challenge of claims that a suitable woman “couldn’t be found”. We can also put this information in the places that people are already looking. There are some nuances to providing this information.

With a dataset of over 47,000 automatically created researchers profiles (and rapidly growing), it simply won't be possible to manually determine the gender of each researcher on an ongoing basis. For the launch (March 2018) we have visually reviewed all stored images, however in the future we will employ a combination of tools to make the best informed guess we can about each researcher’s gender.

These tools include:

  • Photo analysis – all photos captured prior to the Expert FindHer launch on 8th March 2018 were visually reviewed. New images added after this date are assessed by a neural net that is trained on edges of the head and neck area the confidence level of female being returned. These images will also be put in a folder to be visually checked, which will then overwrite the initial automated evaluation.
  • Title – gender specific titles (e.g. Ms, Miss, Mrs, Mr, Sir) are reviewed where provided, however this is not very common as the majority of titles consist of Doctor, Professor etc.
  • Pronoun use - bio information is reviewed (when written in third person) to look for male/female pronouns
  • Self-select - along with verifying their profile and adding direct contact details, we also allow users to select the gender they currently identify as (female, male, non-conforming, prefer not to disclose).
  • Name - we've used established name sets. The US social security has naming data since 1880, which has provided the most in-depth list of names to have a percentage of females against each name. Where missing, an API is called.

Based on the above tools, we make an assessment of likely gender, together with a measure of certainty. We must achieve at least a 99.99% certainty level for a gender marker to be applied. This has resulted in approximately 29% of the researchers in Expert Connect being assigned a gender, with the remaining 71% unable to be determined at this time. We are continuing to explore new tools that can help enhance the accuracy of our assessments. Of course the more people we can encourage to self-select, the more accurate our data will be.

We fully recognise that tools we’re using are just the beginning. As with all elements of the Expert Connect platform, we remain very open to ideas and suggestions about how to enhance the work we're doing. Our goal is that this platform can serve as a useful starting point for a collaborative effort to dramatically enhance opportunities for women. We want to see a more equitable research ecology, and we’d like to co-create that vision with collaborators from the research sector and beyond.

We realise this system isn't perfect, but we hope it is a small step in the right direction. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch if you’d like to discuss anything further, and/or collaborate with us on this initiative.

About Expert Connect Innovation Challenges

Building on Expert Connect, the Innovation Challenges marketplace creates further opportunities for businesses and researchers to connect. 

Launched in April 2018, the platform draws together domestic and international innovation challenges into a single list. Intelligent matching is then used to automatically notify researchers with the relevant expertise for each challenge. This means businesses get their challenges in front of the right expertise, and researchers gain visibility of key business priorities.

The Innovation Challenges marketplace has been developed in close collaboration with representatives from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, IP Australia and the ACT Government.

Foundation Partners

The Department of Industry, Innovation and ScienceIP AustraliaThe ConversationClarivate AnalyticsAustralian Research Council

Contributing Partners

Agile DigitalACT Government Innovate CanberraAustralian Access FederationAustralian National UniversityBusiness Higher Education Round TableCBR Innovation NetworkUniversity of Technology SydneyThinkableUniversity of CanberraCoalfacerThe University of Western AustraliaWestern Sydney University