%0 Generic %D 2009 %T Digital tools for diagnostics %A Kong, G %A Carmichael, A %A Beasley, D %A Farrell, J %A La Salle, J %A Thompson, M %X

The Problem
We are all aware that globalisation has put added pressure on our borders and requires us to assure our trading partners of our pest status. At a time when we require more not less diagnostic capacity, we are seeing a decline in our human capital as experienced people retire – and more often than not they are not replaced. At the same time our educational institutions are losing teaching capacity and are failing to attract students to the required disciplines. This is a systemic problem, and until we recover our human capital, we will need to do more with less, and resources like PaDIL, the Plant Biosecurity Toolbox, the Biosecurity Bank and Remote Microscopy can help our existing people now and into the future.

The Solution
Project CRC27012 is developing a mix of digital technologies designed to provide the building blocks of future diagnostic information systems. PaDIL, the Plant Biosecurity Toolbox and the Biosecurity Bank are web-based tools that provide users with specific diagnostic information to help them make an identification without resorting to an expert. Remote Microscopy connects pest specimens with experts in real-time via a microscope and internet connection so that an instant diagnosis is possible from almost any location. The interaction with these tools creates an environment of learning and through association with an expert, users improve their diagnostic skills in a personal but informal way.

Who will use the tools?
Users will range from inspectors in our ports and at our borders to field-based crop protection officers, to taxonomists and experts in labs. They can be farmers, consultants, policy makers and regulators or just simply members of the public. They may be local or international. These tools excite a wide audience and provide information at a number levels – from taxonomy and general biology to risk analysis and detailed molecular tests.

The Future
Viewed independently, the tools present the user with a simple pathway to solve a diagnostic problem and in so doing, perform the useful biosecurity function of pest identification. Wider access and use of the tools will be enhanced through the application of better digital technologies, such as personal digital assistants, wireless networks, portable remote microscopes, dedicated web portals and organised networks of facilities with agreed standards and processes. Beyond this primary function, people interact with the tools to create an instantaneous log of pest specimens, their prevalence and locations which can then be picked up by analytical databases such as the Atlas of Living Australia, that will aggregate and draw on these tools and data to provide a deeper understanding of trends. In this sense, these tools provide the materials for future heuristic models of analysis.