The current pandemic is an example of how important cooperative science is: In order to be able to understand the worldwide effects of COVID-19 on physical and mental health, the economy, climate, and transport, different disciplines must carry out joint research.
To do this, researchers require access to data that is openly available and is synchronized in terms of format as is best possible. At the same time, it is necessary that the data be secured in order to avoid misuse or unintended publishing. This task is to be addressed with the establishment of a national research data infrastructure, NFDI in short. In 2016, the Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures recommended the creation of such an infrastructure. The Joint Science Conference (GWK) then founded the initiative. The government and states have been investing around 90 million euros annually into the ambitious project since 2019 and will continue to do so until 2028.
Bremen Research Institutes Involved in Four out of Nine Consortia
In order to attain the goal of a joint national infrastructure for research data from all disciplines, the first step was to found so-called consortia. They are collaborations between universities, non-university research institutes, and further agents. Alongside the stated securing and preparation of research data, their tasks include the connection to and networking with international initiatives, such as the European Open Science Cloud. Scientists from Bremen are involved in four of the first nine consortia. Said four groups are called NFDI4BioDiversity, NFDI4Health, NFDI4Ing, and KonsortSWD. They cover the fields of health, engineering, social sciences, behavioral science, educational science, and economics. The systematic organization of data according to the FAIR Data principle is one of the core tasks. Data must be “Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.”
Online Discussion on the Challenges Posed by NFDI
The consortia will commence their work in October 2020. With regard to this, the U Bremen Research Alliance, a research network from the University of Bremen that includes eleven non-university research institutes, extended invitations to an online panel discussion. Amongst other things, the panel addressed the dangers posed by a possible “silo mentality,” the significance of data security, and the connection of a German infrastructure to European one. You can find a video of the discussion here; the audio file is available on the U Bremen Research Alliance website (in German). The specialist discussion offers a comprehensive insight into the motivation, challenges, and planning of the NFDI.
Jan-Martin Wiarda hosted the discussion and the following persons were on the panel:
Sabine Brünger-Weilandt (Chairwoman of the German Council for Scientific Infrastructures (RfII) (2014 – 2016); Director and Managing Director of FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure)
Prof. Dr. York Sure-Vetter (NFDI Director, Professor of Web Science at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT))
Prof. Dr. Iris Pigeot (Co-Spokesperson for NFDI4Health; Professor of Statistics at the University of Bremen; Director of the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS); Vice Chairperson of the U Bremen Research Alliance)
Prof. Dr. Frank Oliver Glöckner (Chairperson of NFDI4BioDiversity; member of the German Council for Scientific Infrastructures (RfII) (2014 – 2018); Professor of Earth Systems Data Science at the University of Bremen; Head of Data at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Head of PANGAEA – Data Publisher for Earth & Environmental Science)
Prof. Dr. Rolf Drechsler (Spokesperson for the Data Science Center, University of Bremen; Professor of Computer Architecture at the University of Bremen, Director of the German research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI))