[Call closed] Call for an Expression of Interest to host DDLS Data area nodes and WABI

Executive summary

The Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS) program coordinated by SciLifeLab and funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation opens a new Expression of Interest (EoI) call for the 11 partner organizations. The EoI is focusing on hosting national data area/WABI nodes for each of the four research areas of the DDLS program. The funding covers salaries of up to 5 FTEs in each of the four research areas, initially over two years, but is expected to continue over the period of DDLS funding (i.e. 5 FTEs x 4 RAs x 11 years). The total funding for the EoI is over 500 MSEK.

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The SciLifeLab and Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS) was launched in 2020 by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW). DDLS is a 12-year funding initiative to support data-driven life science in Sweden with SciLifeLab as the host.

The program will focus on four strategic research areas of data-driven research:

  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Evolution and Biodiversity
  • Precision Medicine and Diagnostics
  • Epidemiology and Biology of infection

Partners and participants

Apart from SciLifeLab and KAW, a total of 11 organizations are participating in the program:

The DDLS Data Platform

The DDLS program will operate a national life science data platform. This platform provides a technical environment for data-driven life science with tools, systems, databases, support functions, and other components linking up data, researchers and e-infrastructures. The data platform will consist of a central technical hub at the SciLifeLab Data Centre, that operates the central resources and coordinates activities at the national level, as well as data area nodes (DANs) in the four areas of research in the DDLS program. Each DAN will consist of data platform staff embedded in a relevant research- and data environment at the hosting organization. The node will be given the responsibility of developing and coordinating national data services for the corresponding DDLS research area and provide these services in coordination with the technical hub.

Wallenberg Advanced Bioinformatics Infrastructure

WABI (Wallenberg Advanced Bioinformatics Infrastructure) is an existing KAW-funded initiative for bioinformatics support which will gradually integrate with the DDLS program. It constitutes the Long-Term Support unit of the SciLifeLab Bioinformatics Platform NBIS.

Aim and Scope of the call

The DDLS program is now establishing nodes for data services and bioinformatic support. The 11 partner organizations are invited to express their interest to host national data nodes for each of the four DDLS research areas, co-locating staff associated with the program, and integrate them in strong existing environments for data-driven life science and data infrastructure. The DDLS staff at the nodes belong to two categories: Data Area Node (DAN) staff (software developers, data engineers and data stewards) for field-specific data platform services and resources, and WABI staff (bioinformaticians).

Taken together, the nodes will host approximately 5 FTEs in each of the four DDLS research areas. We now make a plan for the first phase of the DDLS program, ending in March 2024, but if the nodes are successful, and the KAW funding is continued, the nodes can be extended beyond 2024. Thus, potentially this can result in funding decisions equivalent to 5 FTEs over 11 years for each of the four research areas. This program therefore provides a major funding opportunity, as well as an important national responsibility in shaping the future capabilities of Swedish data-driven life science. The selected host institution will be able to profile itself as a key player in the future national life science data ecosystem.

Hosting organizations should already have a proven track record in life science and data science, relevant infrastructure expertise, as well as an interest and the capability to serve the national community in one of the four research areas. The applicants for the nodes should present a plan on how they aim to set up a national data science and data analysis support service within their area of research interest, and provide information of the kind of capabilities and expertise that they can assemble as in-kind support for the DDLS program.

Hosting organizations are expected to take responsibility for the employment of personnel, but recruitments shall be coordinated with the SciLifeLab Bioinformatics Platform NBIS (for WABI) and the SciLifeLab Data Centre (for DANs), and be approved by the DDLS steering group. Personnel are expected to participate full-time in projects led by the corresponding national DDLS organization – NBIS for WABI staff and SciLifeLab Data Centre for DAN staff. The legal model for hosting both DAN and WABI staff shall be in accordance with the model currently in use for WABI staff.


Who can apply? 

DDLS partner organizations can submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) to host a national data area node, and WABI staff for each of the four the DDLS research areas. The primary host organizations are eligible to apply if they also have one DDLS Fellow position allocated in the same research area. Each EoI should have one primary host organization, where critical mass of expertise is located, but EoIs can be supported by other partner organizations (short supporting letters can be included to demonstrate this coordination). Such national coordination will be considered favorably. Any DDLS partner organization may submit an EoI, but each partner may only host or support one EoI in each research area. The applicant must be either a partner organization representative in the DDLS national reference group, or a person named by this representative with a clear mandate from the leadership of the organization.

Expression of Interest preparation and evaluation process

SciLifeLab and the DDLS program management will continue to engage in dialogue with the partner organizations to help prepare high quality Expressions of Interest. We are available to meet and discuss before applications are submitted, but our dialogue in this latter phase of the program is generic and not intended to guide the specific content of each proposal.

A dedicated application system is currently open for applications and the deadline for submissions is March 18, 2022. Following the submissions, an international evaluation panel will review the EoIs. There may also be an interview (to be decided by the panel). The DDLS steering group will propose a suggested decision for the SciLifeLab board meeting on May 31.

Please note, that this is an expression of interest only. Therefore, nodes may be asked to complement or revise their plans towards a final approved contract. You may be asked to engage in a dialogue with the DAN/WABI coordinators and the Research area leads before a decision is taken by the SciLifeLab Board.

The following information should be included in the Expression of Interest
  • A description for the data node to be developed, for which of the four research areas, and the number of DAN and WABI personnel requested to be hosted. 
  • A description of the surrounding environment hosting the personnel of the node, in particular detailing relevant research and infrastructure, currently hosted WABI/NBIS staff, and participation in relevant local, national or international activities regarding the research area and associated research data. 
  • A motivation paragraph for applying for the role as a national DDLS data area node for the specific area. 
  • A description of how the work environment will be organized for the associated personnel. 
  • A commitment to recruit and employ personnel, on permanent contracts (“tillsvidareanställning”), and to organize and coordinate recruitment/s together with NBIS (for WABI) and SciLifeLab Data Centre (for DAN) for each person recruited. Our experience is that, in this field, competitive candidates will apply only if the position is labeled as permanent. 
  • A commitment to co-finance as specified in the section Funding below. 
  • A description of how the host organization plans to provide and develop competitive working conditions to attract and maintain advanced technical personnel, including a stimulating working environment, relevant job titles, competitive salary levels, career opportunities, and compliance with ELSI. 

We expect short answers and concise descriptions, with about one paragraph for each topic above. There will be word limits in the electronic submission system.


Co-financing requirement for KAW funding 

For DAN personnel, the hosting organizations need to accept the regular co-financing requirements of KAW-funded projects. Maximum 18% of the awarded KAW grant can be used for indirect- and premises costs and also the maximum ceiling for payroll taxes and social security contributions (LKP/LBK) to be financed is 50% of gross salaries.

For WABI personnel, co-financing will happen via the NBIS consortium agreement (where salary and running costs are covered, including LKP/LBK and up to 35% addition for indirect costs and facilities rent combined). 

Host organizations are expected to take responsibility for the employment of personnel, but recruitments and the activities at the nodes should be coordinated with the SciLifeLab Bioinformatics Platform NBIS (for WABI) and the SciLifeLab Data Centre (for DANs) and approved by the DDLS steering group. Any other funding and in-kind contribution are viewed positively, but are not required.

Evaluation criteria 

  • Vision for the node that is ambitious and compatible with the DDLS strategy and national aims 
  • Scientific excellence in computational biology and data science with relevance to the four research areas of DDLS (Cell and Molecular Biology, Evolution and Biodiversity, Epidemiology and Biology of infection, Precision Medicine and Diagnostics) 
  • Track record in organizing national infrastructures, and services for FAIR data sharing, analysis and compute capabilities. 
  • Integration of the DAN/WABI node with the scientific environment of the host as well as other DDLS activities, such as the DDLS fellow positions 
  • Commitment to the DDLS strategy, FAIR guidelines and national networking 
  • Adherence to the co-financing criteria and the DDLS/WABI model 
  • Any other co-funding or in-kind contributions that may be relevant 
  • Coordinated applications with more than one organization jointly proposing a collaborative node with a single host, for the specific research area, will be considered favorably. Such joint proposals should aim at creating a collaborative center with a clear national responsibility and strong critical mass at one site. 

Questions regarding the call

Please feel free to contact ddls-eoi@scilifelab.se.

Last updated: 2022-07-15

Content Responsible: Heidi Törmänen Persson(heidi.t.persson@scilifelab.uu.se)