Norwegian Roadmap for Research Infrastructure 2023
The value of national coordination
Several types of research infrastructure, such as very expensive scientific equipment, databases and high-performance computing resources, may be uneconomical and difficult for a single research institution to fund. At the same time, it is important that these investments are utilised effectively by a large number of users. It is therefore often appropriate and necessary for several research institutions to collaborate on building, developing and utilising such infrastructures.
To ensure that such infrastructures are utilised well at the national level and that investments are coordinated appropriately so that researchers' needs are met, the Research Council can play an important role in coordinating and supporting such collaborations.
Analysis and strategic prioritisation of large individual investments
Coordinating the allocation of relatively large funding for research infrastructure of national importance makes it possible to take steps where a few large, nationally important research infrastructures are placed ahead of others in a given allocation process. Similar measures are normally not possible within the Research Council's other instruments and programmes, partly because of limited funding, and partly because particularly large infrastructure investments are easily given low priority in favour of other research projects.
Analyses of the application influx provide the Research Council with an overview of the infrastructure needs that exist, while the national coordination provides a better overview of which investments are actually being made. This puts the Research Council in a better position to set strategic priorities, and to be able to align infrastructure calls towards specific disciplines and thematic areas as needed.
Cooperation and division of labour
The Research Council stipulates requirements for collaboration and division of labour between different research institutions and/or between research institutions and actors from industry, public administration or health trusts in order to be eligible to receive funding. To a large extent, the infrastructures' research applications are also aimed at actors outside the R&D institutions. This creates a culture and practical routines for accessibility beyond the host institutions' own researchers. The Research Council sets similar requirements for cooperation and division of labour between Norwegian institutions when funding Norwegian participation in the development of joint international infrastructures.
Coordinated generic e-infrastructure in Norway
Research from many disciplines is now more data-driven than before. The development of new sensor technology, digitalisation of research data and advanced data analysis tools mean that an increasing number of research fields need large analysis capacity, network transfer, storage and access to large amounts of research data. E-infrastructure for research includes equipment, operations and related services for high-performance computing, data storage, software systems and high-speed networks as well as tools for efficient and secure information management and software for simulation and analysis of data. The term e-infrastructure is also used for digital registers and databases, as well as tools and services to secure and make these accessible.
Norway has coordinated generic e-infrastructure for research and higher education through Sikt and Sigma2 AS (Sigma2). Sikt develops and operates the Norwegian high-speed network for research and education, which connects Norwegian institutions, researchers and students and links them to international research networks. Sigma2 is responsible for procuring, operating and further developing the generic national e-infrastructure for high-performance computing and data storage. Long-term service agreements with the universities of Bergen, Oslo, Tromsø and Trondheim, and basic funding from the Research Council through the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure, constitute a significant part of the funding to Sigma2. This ensures a more cost-effective development of e-infrastructure solutions than requiring institutions to build their own solutions only.
Investments in generic e-infrastructure should be considered in the light of the needs of other national research infrastructures. By coordinating investments in these infrastructures, Norway can adapt the level of investment to real needs and focus efforts on the areas that will benefit most from the investments. This also provides the opportunity to bridge the gap between infrastructures and disciplines to support multidisciplinary research. The Research Council will therefore work to ensure long-term, adequate funding of e-infrastructure that meets the needs it is intended to cover, within the current budget framework.
Messages at time of print 4 December 2023, 23:37 CET