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The Relational Insights Data Lab (RIDL) is part of Griffith University, based at Nathan Campus. Rooted in the Griffith University ecosystem we leverage on research expertise across all projects to ensure they are executed with scientific rigour. RIDL is a not for profit organisation. We endeavour to make our solutions publicly available and share our code whenever possible to make it available for re-use, and we quote at cost. 

RIDL’s data-rich environment provides new opportunities to fast-track innovative solutions that address long-standing urban and regional problems by using “place”, rather than discipline or agency, as the data linking framework. With the right data ecosystem RIDL can improve our understanding of these problems, which will in turn improve policy making, service delivery, and effective business and regional development.


Director: Dr. Tom Verhelst

Dr Tom Verhelst is our Program Director. In this role he works identify and fast-track innovative solutions that address long-standing urban and regional challenges by using “place”, rather than discipline or agency, as the data linking framework.  

Dr Verhelst has strong global industry R&D experience in applying novel platform technologies towards scientific advancement to generate beneficial socioeconomic impacts. He worked previously as the Associate Director of R&D IT at UCB Biopharma (Top 30 Global pharmaceutical company) in Belgium and in the UK and as a program lead and consultant for PerkinElmer (Fortune 500 company) in Europe, the Middle East, North America and India.

Data Scientist & Partnerships Lead: Rhetta Chappell

Rhetta Chappell is our Data Scientist and Partnerships Lead. In this role she designs and builds intuitive and innovative solutions which enable users to make data driven decisions by providing context through quantitative and qualitative analysis. By working alongside clients, Rhetta helps to ensure these solutions empower users to turn insights into actions and outcomes and then monitor the outcomes to combat complex urban and social issues. 

Rhetta has a strong background in data analytics, statistical standards, data collection, reporting and survey design. Originally from Canada, she previously worked for the National Centre for Vocational Education Research as researcher and project officer. Rhetta is a strong proponent of open source technologies and women in STEM and can often be found presenting and enjoying the free pizza at events in the data science and technology scenes in Brisbane. After completing a degree in Anthropology, Rhetta has gone on to complete post graduate study in data science and machine learning.

Strategic Community Insights Lead: Sherena Zanus

Currently on secondment at Restacking the Odds

Sherena Zanus is our Strategic Community Insights Lead.  Her work focuses on working with communities to ensure that they are supported to collect, access and interpret evidence required to build strong and cohesive communities, in an environment which is complex, has multiple stakeholders and is responsive to community challenges.

In the last 12 years Sherena has worked in the Community Services sector and has a strong background in service design, community development and contemporary practice, strategic planning, outcome measurement, evaluation, data collection and analysis. Sherena is able to synthesis information quickly and communicate complex issues to a broad range of audiences, she believes that innovation is change that adds value and works to support stakeholders through the use of data and evidence to identify, implement and monitor innovative and contemporary solutions to complex issues.

Sherena combines her experience of the how to of using data in place and her deep understanding of the community services sector to drive positive change for and with communities. Fun fact: originally from the UK, Sherena worked for 10 years in the Fragrance and Flavour Industry where she trained as a nose!

Data Analyst: Nicholas Pittman

Nicholas Pittman is one of our Data Analysts, and is also a student at Griffith University studying a Bachelor of IT. With a background in Client Services prior to study, he joined RIDL as an intern, and is enthusiastic about analysing and interpreting data as a means to improve processes and products. 

Nick’s expertise includes R, R Shiny and JavaScript; outside of RIDL he additionally works as a PASS Leader in Griffith Sciences. When Nick has a free moment amongst all his commitments, he loves to cook, hike, and video game.

Data Linkage Analyst: Jessica Chen

Jessica Chen is our dedicated Data Linkage Analyst. Jessica’s passion for data was ignited during her participation in the National Youth Science Forum at the Australian National University in 2019. Recognising the incredible potential of data science, she embarked on a journey to pursue it as her career choice. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business (Economics)/Bachelor of Data Science degree at Griffith University.


The Relational Insights Data Lab Program Board provides advice and recommendations to the Program Sponsor, the Pro vice Chancellor and Head of Logan Campus, on the development of the Data Lab. The Board will:

+ provide expert advice and stakeholder insights on the development of the Lab

+ develop a strategic plan, business plan and business model for the Lab, working in concert with the Program Director

+ monitor progress and receive updates from the Program Director against the business plan

+ assist with identification of opportunities, resolution of issues and mitigation of risks

+ use influence and authority to assist the project in achieving its deliverables

+ communicate about the project in their respective networks and organisations, and

+ promote the Lab’s successes and benefits within the wider community.

The inaugural Chair will be Mr. Rob Cook, who was Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation (QCIF) from 2010 to 2017. Rob has made a significant contribution over the past 40 years to the development of the research services and infrastructure ecosystem within Australia and, more particularly, Queensland.

Key representatives from government, research, industry and community are currently being invited to join the Board.


Griffith University is deeply engaged with all levels of government, the not-for-profit, private sectors and the community, working together for mutual benefit.

This partnership creates an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of regional innovation through data, leveraging our respective strengths and our strong partnerships to be a national and international leader in harnessing data to build innovative, dynamic, regions of the future.


RIDL team at Logan Get Together

Data for the people, the RIDL team at the Logan Get Together September 2019. 

Our director, Tom at Nanjing Tech Week a whirl wind event encompassing 100 simultaneous events across Nanjing China.

RIDL director at Nanjing Tech Week

It is never too early to have fun with data, Rhetta our Data Analytics Web Developer sharing the building blocks of data literacy with a class of 3-6 year olds.

Data Literacy

It is important to have fun along the way, at RIDL we enjoy working together with our partners enabling them to turn insights into actions and outcomes. By making data matter, we help support thriving communities across Australia.

Relational Insights Data Lab team
RIDL at Research Bazar

Rhetta with her winning researcher poster at the ResBaz conference.

RIDL team at the 2019 Mt Druitt ChangeFest conference.

Rhetta and Sherena manning the RIDL booth at the 2019 Mt Druitt Change Fest in NSW.

Advanced R Course

Rhetta Chappell with mentor Bill Venables at the Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics (CANRM) Advanced R programming course at UQ.

Rhetta & Sherena with the members of the Community Service Data Alliance (CSDA).