SciLifeLab responds to investigation of national research infrastructure
On May 7, 2020, the Swedish government decided to appoint a special investigator, with the task of submitting proposals regarding the future organization, steering and funding of national research infrastructure (SOU 2021:65 Stärkt fokus på framtidens forskningsinfrastruktur). The previous Minister for Higher Education and Research, Tobias Krantz, was appointed. His report was published in December 2021, and the referral round closed on January 12, 2022.
The purpose of the investigation was to make sure that Sweden maintains a high quality research infrastructure that, is central to addressing societal challenges at hand, can help in the implementation of the UN’s global goal for sustainable development (Agenda 2030), and can participate in the realization of making Sweden one of the world’s foremost research and innovation countries.
SciLifeLab’s four founding universities, as well as numerous other official referral instances, have provided their comments on the report. SciLifeLab, albeit not an official referral instance, has also provided a response, since many of the considerations directly affect the operations and future development potential of SciLifeLab as a national life science infrastructure.
SciLifeLab is a national infrastructure that provides cutting-edge technology, accompanied by first class expertise, as well as many internationally recognized researchers, and integrates well with the new SciLifeLab & Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS). SciLifeLab has developed a model for integrating its operations and capabilities with those of our four founding universities, as well as with all major research universities engaged in life science. This represents an innovative forward-looking model that we believe could be further developed and also used for other large-scale research infrastructures.
“The investigation is a good retrospective review of infrastructures in Sweden, but is not presenting innovative and proactive thinking for the future. I believe research infrastructures are much more dynamic than considered in the report and that we should not consider research infrastructures as separate entities, but as an integral part of the research ecosystem”, says SciLifeLab Director Olli Kallioniemi. “For example, the combination of SciLifeLab’s research infrastructure, data sciences and the research community, together form important capabilities for Sweden, such as in pandemic laboratory preparedness, precision medicine or planetary biology, the three capabilities now being developed at SciLifeLab.
In order to better serve as a national infrastructure and collaborative research organization, SciLifeLab would benefit from gaining an ability for easier partnering with external stakeholders. This is an issue that the investigation highlights as a challenge for national infrastructures, but provides no suggestions for solutions. This will need to be developed together with the host universities but may also require government considerations. An improved ability to form contracts and agreements would enable a national research infrastructures to sustain its diverse national collaborative roles, particularly when engaging sectors outside the academia.
“We see that the “SciLifeLab model” for national infrastructures has in general turned out to be very successful regarding steering, funding, research integration, university collaborations and evaluations, and data handling. We are pleased to see that both Stockholm University and Uppsala University mention SciLifeLab as a good example for other infrastructures”, says Olli.
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