Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure 2023
Division of responsibilities in connection with decisions on the establishment of research infrastructure
The white paper "Klima for forskning" ("Climate for research"4) defined a division of responsibilities between the R&D institutions, the Research Council and the ministries with regard to decisions on the establishment of research infrastructure.
Basic infrastructure at the R&D institutions includes scientific equipment required to ensure academic activities at an acceptable level. Investment in and establishment of such infrastructure should be made by the institutions themselves and financed through the institutions' basic allocations. The R&D institutions are considered to be in the best position to assess the need for this type of equipment and to ensure simple and good allocation procedures.
The Research Council will contribute to the institutions' own investments by ensuring that all allocations to R&D projects from the Research Council that involve the use of "procured" infrastructure can cover a proportionate share of the depreciation of these infrastructures. In addition, the awards can cover operating costs for the project's use of infrastructure. "Project-specific equipment" may also be funded through the Research Council's grants. This is equipment that is necessary for the implementation of the research project, but does not have use beyond the current project.
The Research Council of Norway
The Research Council is to make decisions on investments in infrastructure of national importance (see text box below). Allocations from the Research Council's budget are intended to support the development of nationally prioritised research areas and nationally important industries with a major need for research infrastructure. The division of responsibility entails that the Research Council must help to ensure that the institutions coordinate when several research groups need research infrastructure, but the costs are so high that collaboration is most appropriate. The Research Council assesses infrastructure applications from NOK 2 million and upwards, and may contribute up to NOK 200 million to individual projects.
The establishment of research infrastructure that requires external funding in excess of NOK 200 million is decided at ministerial or government level. However, as part of the process of assessing other grant applications, the Research Council may assess applications for amounts larger than NOK 200 million and submit recommendations to the relevant ministries. Institutions or consortia wishing to establish research infrastructures that entail such high investments are therefore encouraged to contact the Research Council so that any grant applications can be submitted and assessed together with other applications. Any positive recommendation from the Research Council will be based on a very positive assessment of the infrastructure in accordance with the Research Council's criteria. In exceptional cases, following dialogue with the Ministry of Education and Research, the Research Council will be able to support a design phase.
Since the primary purpose of the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure is to renew Norwegian research infrastructure, the Research Council is restrictive in allowing this scheme to contribute to financing the operation of research infrastructure. Instead, and as far as possible, expenses for the operation of research infrastructure must be covered by projects that use the infrastructure. The Research Council therefore requires applicants for funding for the establishment of research infrastructure to also submit plans for how sustainable operation of the infrastructures can be achieved. User payments from R&D projects that use the infrastructure shall preferably be an important part of operational funding. Expenses for the use of research infrastructure are therefore legitimate costs in any application for research funding from the Research Council's various programmes and funding schemes.
In exceptional cases, however, consideration may be given to whether operating costs for new or existing infrastructure of national importance should be supported through the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure. Infrastructures with very high operating costs that there are good reasons why ongoing projects, host institutions or other funders are not fully able to cover may, after a special assessment, receive long-term support for operations. Similar exceptions may be made under other circumstances where funding from the user projects or the infrastructures' owner institution(s) is clearly inappropriate.
Data management infrastructure
Through the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure, the Research Council will contribute to making research data available in secure systems and in such a form that they can form the basis for research cooperation both nationally and internationally, as well as ensure Norwegian participation in international computer networks. In this context, research data means "registrations/records/reports in the form of numbers, texts, images and sounds that are generated or arise during research projects.
Funding from the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure may be sought for infrastructure that promotes the management and accessibility of research data, more specifically for the acquisition and establishment of equipment and tools for collecting data for research, technical systems for quality assurance and preparation of data, and technical systems for archiving and making data available for research.
It is not possible to apply for funding for the implementation of data generation/data collection under the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure, as this is financed through the Research Council's research projects and the R&D institutions' own financed activities (and for some datasets of the ministries and their subordinate administrative bodies).
Funding from the Research Council for research infrastructure is available for applications within all disciplines and thematic areas. Furthermore, the Research Council must ensure scientific quality and undertake strategic assessments and emphasise national priorities through the allocations. This may mean that different priority areas or subject areas may be given different emphasis in calls for proposals, so that the Research Council can channel investments towards areas where research activity is high and the need for research infrastructure is great, as well as follow up political and strategic guidelines.
Decisions on international research cooperation that entail significant and permanent commitments related to investments and membership fees are made at the ministry level. National research facilities involving investments exceeding NOK 200 million will also be managed at ministerial or government level, preferably on the advice of the Research Council. Preferably, these are funds that must come in addition to the permanent item for research infrastructure in the national budget.
Messages at time of print 4 December 2023, 23:38 CET