Interview with Hans Eide, chair of NeIC’s board

NeIC’s board consists of six representatives from the national e-infrastructure provider organisations in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The board members are appointed by the NordForsk board based on nominations by the national providers. NeIC’s director is a non-voting member of the board and attends all meetings. In addition, members of the executive team and NeIC project managers often visit the board meetings to present reports for the board to discuss and base their decisions on.

Hans Eide, Special advisor at Sigma2, Norway, started as the chair of NeIC’s board in June 2021. Eide was elected as the vice-chair in 2019, and, as the rotation in NeIC’s board goes, will now act as the chair until June 2023. He has been a member of the board since 2018 and was glad to take on the role of the chair.

– While the role of the chair can be seen as a role simply rotating between the partner countries, it is also important to ensure that the board focuses on the right topics and have the “good” discussions. Luckily, the board has been quite stable over time and built a culture of openness and trust that I think reflects the entire organisation and our Nordic common values, Eide says.

NeIC in Norway, Norway in NeIC

Eide has a background in atmospheric physics and radiative transfer before the interest in high-performance computing led him to a position at USIT, the IT-department of the University of Oslo. In 2016 he transferred to Sigma2. He first became involved with Nordic collaboration in connection with the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid – the huge international e-infrastructure built to provide computing and storage for CERN – and the Nordic Tier-1. At the time, Nordic Tier-1 was coordinated by the Nordic Data Grid Facility (NDGF). Since the establishment of NeIC in 2012, Eide has been involved in several projects and at various levels, and was appointed to the board in June 2018. How does he think NeIC has impacted the e-infrastructure field in Norway?

– As Sigma2 itself is a small organisation responsible for procurements, project management, coordination and such, NeIC is very visible for all of us working there. I believe the same is true to a large extent for the Norwegian Research Infrastructure Services (NRIS), the greater organisation that includes the experts and competence from our four partner universities. NRIS is where the Sigma2 participants in NeIC projects come from. One way to view how NeIC has contributed to our national e-infrastructure is that NeIC has extended the NRIS “concept” of distributed but equal participation in a wider collaboration.

Norway, alongside Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, is a member country in NeIC. Like the other members, Norway funds NeIC annually according to the Memorandum of Understanding that was set up in 2012. Norwegian organisations also provide personnel to work in NeIC projects: NeIC normally funds 50% of the personnel’s work in these projects, the other 50% is in-kind contribution funded by the organisations. In 2021, Norway participated in eight NeIC-coordinated activities, including the EU-funded EOSC-Nordic. These partners were

  • University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway,
  • MET Norway,
  • Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center,
  • NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS,
  • Norwegian Centre for Research Data (now part of Sikt),
  • Norwegian Institute for Nature Research,
  • NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology,
  • UNINETT Sigma2 AS (nowadays Sigma2 AS),
  • University of Bergen, and
  • University of Oslo.

Collaboration based on common values and trust

NeIC’s board meets quarterly to discuss hot topics within e-infrastructure, make decisions regarding future initiatives and directions and ensure NeIC is taking the right measures to implement its strategy. The board has the authority to make strategic decisions regarding computing and data-storage infrastructure and react to upcoming opportunities. The board also has the final say when it comes to initiating new collaborations, the budget and approving of many reports, such as the annual report. Eide sees that due to similarities between the member countries, steering NeIC is in general smooth sailing.

– There is a great emphasis on consensus in our shared Nordic culture and values, but because we have similar interests, it has generally not been hard to find this consensus, or compromises if you want. NeIC’s perceived position between the national and the further international level provides opportunities, and it is also the reason why strategy is such an important topic for us, Eide says.

When it comes to naming the greatest achievements of NeIC, Eide finds it difficult to put one or two in particular over others. He sees that fruitful collaborations based on trust are at the basis of all of NeIC’s achievements. According to Eide, this lets people engage where they have interest and ability to contribute and makes it possible to distribute work based on competence while knowing that everyone will do their crucial parts for the whole – for the common good.

Sigma2 has recently published their Annual Report 2021. The report can be accessed here.