NeIC’s footprint on the Nordics

In December 2022, we published a success story on the impact of NeIC. The story states that the impact this type of collaboration has is created not only in the actual work conducted but also in the community. The article describes the impact study that was conducted over several years and published as a report in May 2022. As part of the impact study, we conducted a project stakeholder survey and investigated our partners’ perceptions of NeIC. This article will go more into details of the effects NeIC has had over its ten-year existence.

Direct contribution to research and research e-infrastructures

There are three major ways NeIC benefits research:

  • by developing and enhancing research software and technology;
  • by offering services for research, both through Nordic Tier-1 and development project pilots;
  • and by building competencies and promoting open science.

Success stories from NeIC’s activities were presented on our website on the course of last year. However, there are more, and it is to be noted that many benefits from NeIC’s activities remain invisible to the general public while they are obvious to the users of research e-infrastructure or software. NeIC’s development projects can help to offer better software and services for research, for example by developing new technologies in the project or by coordinating the network of infrastructure services. Our goal is to improve interoperability between services and in this way enable research excellence in the Nordic-Baltic Region.

Our only operational activity, the Nordic Tier-1, is an outstanding example of promoting excellence in research in the Nordic Region and globally, and it is the only distributed Tier-1 site in the world. There are 13 Tier-1 facilities in the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG), and their purpose is to store and process the data coming from CERN. The Nordic Tier-1 Grid Facility has been ranked among the top three Tier-1 sites according to the availability and reliability metrics for the ATLAS and ALICE Tier-1 sites measured by WLCG for the year 2020.

Growing need for Nordic e-infrastructure collaboration

Between 2012 and 2021, NeIC facilitated work equal to an estimated 280 person years in Nordic Tier-1 and projects. The scope of the development projects has grown more diverse and scientifically relevant over time to better respond to today’s challenges, such as climate change and utilising new kinds of technologies.

With the mandate given by NordForsk, NeIC’s board selects new development projects based on their scientific importance and technical feasibility, national relevance and Nordic added value. NeIC’s framework of collaboration is appealing to communities: in 2021, 11 development project applications were submitted to the third NeIC open call, increasing considerably from 2020 (three applications) and 2019 (five applications).

NeIC’s funding consists of national membership fees, Nordic collaboration funding from NordForsk and in-kind funding from the project partners in the form of personnel’s work time. From 2019 to 2022, NeIC also coordinated the EU-funded project EOSC-Nordic, which provided external funding for the collaboration. Originally, NeIC’s funding consisted only of national membership fees and in-kind funding from partners. There has been an almost four-fold increase in in-kind funding from partners, and this also shows the attractiveness of the framework that NeIC offers for Nordic e-infrastructure collaboration.

Strengthening Nordic and international ties

In addition to the national e-infrastructure providers (DeiC, ETAIS, CSC, RHnet, Sigma2 and SNIC, which after 31 December 2022 has been replaced by NAISS) and partners collaborating in Nordic Tier-1, NeIC has had partners from research communities developing the tools and capabilities for the effective use of research infrastructures in certain fields. The communities may have participated in pre-studies, one or more development projects or the affiliate programme. The communities have varied over the years, although some of them have been represented by the same organisation in the collaboration.

Number of partners in NeIC’s activities.

NeIC contributes to research by developing and providing software, tools, services and training and and brings benefits to partners and collaborators by working together. Thus, NeIC benefits research and collaboration in many ways, potentially leading to research excellence in the Nordic Region. About 80% of the respondents to the stakeholder survey feel that NeIC enables new collaboration with researchers and on e-infrastructure solutions, increases the quality of research and awareness of e-infrastructure solutions, and decreases the time spent on data wrangling.

NeIC benefits both Nordic and international collaboration and the internationalisation of Nordic partners; this became evident through the project stakeholder survey conducted as part of the impact study. About 80% of the respondents thought that NeIC enabled new Nordic collaboration and increased their ability to conduct international collaboration projects. Other benefits highlighted in relation to internationalisation were that NeIC’s collaboration serves as a good testing ground for larger-scale European and international collaboration, helping to transform local and regional efforts into international initiatives and boost international competitiveness. The survey states that NeIC enables the region to achieve a coordinated and scalable way of working within a European context and makes contributions that would not be possible by the individual countries on their own.