The scientific field and NWO are jointly establishing thematic Digital Competence Centers. Researchers and institutions will work together in these network organisations to develop exchangeable and reusable data and software, with the associated competencies, for specific research themes. Interested parties that want to become actively involved in this development can contact NWO.
The Implementation Plan Investments Digital Research Infrastructure describes which investments NWO will make for the coming years on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, especially in computing facilities and digitalisation. Institutions are already working on digitalisation, for example through the establishment of local Digital Competence Centers. The data and software stewards of the centers support researchers. The implementation plan has made incentive funding available with which these competence centers are being strengthened (call Local Digital Competence Centers).
The local DCCs provide generic support to researchers within a single institution. However, many researchers collaborate across institutions on specific research themes, and they could benefit from joint support for their research theme. For example, this could concern how you make agreements to better disclose and share data, or about the development of software that makes data analysis within that research theme easier.
To support this, the implementation plan provides for the formation of thematic DCCs (TDCC). These network organisations will be established at the start of 2022 with funding from NWO. There will be three TDCC networks that will bring together researchers in three ‘domains’ (just like the domains in the National Roadmap for Large-scale Research Facilities):
- Life Science & Health (LSH);
- Natural and Engineering Sciences (NES);
- Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH).
Besides researchers and the aforementioned local DCCs, other parties will also be important within these three domains:
- institutions that have expertise in supporting researchers (such as DANS, NLeSC);
- research infrastructures (such as HealthRI, EPOS-NL, ODISSEI);
- partnerships (for example, 4TU.ResearchData, DTL);
- strategic initiatives and councils.
All of these parties will be involved in the networks. Over the next ten years, NWO will invest about 2.4 million euros per year. This will give a boost to the establishment and support of the TDCC organisations, and the funding can be used to support concrete projects within the digital needs that have been identified.
Tasks thematic DCC
The network will bring together researchers, local DCCs and the other parties stated above. They will identify joint needs (versus needs specifically related to a single discipline) and translate these into project proposals submitted to NWO. The network will form a focus point for organisation and collaboration as well, both within and between Dutch research themes, but also for international initiatives. A TDCC focuses on both data and software plus the link with the available computing. The network should be transparent, open (for new members and partners) and dynamic.
Development of roadmaps, including investment plans
For each domain, NWO has appointed two or three leaders from the scientific field and the ‘supporting’ institutions such as DANS, as well as two NWO secretaries for support (see table). The leaders will draw up a roadmap that includes the investment needs for setting up and supporting networks, as equally the first set of concrete projects to tackle the most important bottlenecks in the domain. They will realise this plan by:
- broadly consulting the field about the needs;
- building up a network of experts from the domain who will develop or give feedback on the roadmap;
- producing a landscape analysis;
- identifying challenges.
Based on these known bottom-up investment needs, NWO will realise an investment plan for supporting the networks. After that, NWO will publish calls for projects especially aimed at the TDCCs.
Becoming involved in the thematic DCCs
The networks will start in the spring of 2022. In the run-up to this, NWO will provide more information and once the networks start, all parties will be invited to participate in them. Would you like to receive more information before then? Or do you have a good overview of one of the three domains and would you like to be involved in producing the roadmaps? Then please contact us via email@example.com and we will bring you into contact with the right people.