Compiling and using input-output frameworks through collaborative virtual laboratories

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2014, 485-486 (1), pp. 241 - 251
Issue Date:
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Compiling, deploying and utilising large-scale databases that integrate environmental and economic data have traditionally been labour- and cost-intensive processes, hindered by the large amount of disparate and misaligned data that must be collected and harmonised. The Australian Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory (IELab) is a novel, collaborative approach to compiling large-scale environmentally extended multi-region input-output (MRIO) models.The utility of the IELab product is greatly enhanced by avoiding the need to lock in an MRIO structure at the time the MRIO system is developed. The IELab advances the idea of the "mother-daughter" construction principle, whereby a regionally and sectorally very detailed "mother" table is set up, from which "daughter" tables are derived to suit specific research questions. By introducing a third tier - the "root classification" - IELab users are able to define their own mother-MRIO configuration, at no additional cost in terms of data handling. Customised mother-MRIOs can then be built, which maximise disaggregation in aspects that are useful to a family of research questions.The second innovation in the IELab system is to provide a highly automated collaborative research platform in a cloud-computing environment, greatly expediting workflows and making these computational benefits accessible to all users.Combining these two aspects realises many benefits. The collaborative nature of the IELab development project allows significant savings in resources. Timely deployment is possible by coupling automation procedures with the comprehensive input from multiple teams. User-defined MRIO tables, coupled with high performance computing, mean that MRIO analysis will be useful and accessible for a great many more research applications than would otherwise be possible. By ensuring that a common set of analytical tools such as for hybrid life-cycle assessment is adopted, the IELab will facilitate the harmonisation of fragmented, dispersed and misaligned raw data for the benefit of all interested parties. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
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