Information for Researchers, No. 8 | February 1, 2022

National Research Data Infrastructure: Funding of NFDI-wide Basic Services

Supplement to the third round of calls

Supplement to the third round of calls

In November 2018, the Federal Government and the federal states decided to establish a National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). In the NFDI, data resources are to be systematically indexed, secured in the long term and made accessible across disciplinary and national borders in accordance with the FAIR principles. Based on a process driven by the academic community, the NFDI is being established as a networked structure of consortia acting on their own initiative. With this supplement to the third round of calls for proposals, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) invites proposals for funding to support basic service initiatives.

The NFDI will develop its full effectiveness when it is able to grow as a networked structure. Basic services are intended to serve the common concerns and needs of potentially all subject-specific and methodological consortia and thus contribute to the success of networking. Since all consortia must agree in principle on the basic services relevant to them and plausibly document their intention to make use of these services, the NFDI Association has initiated a coordination and negotiation process that aims to enable the necessary feedback between basic service initiatives and subject-specific consortia.

The needs of the subject-specific and methodological consortia in terms of basic services can be highly diverse and involve services that can potentially be used by all consortia. In addition, there may be a need for services that relate to the NFDI as a whole and establish links between the specific services offered by individual consortia, for example enabling a cross-consortia and cross-disciplinary search or providing a basic mapping service for discipline-specific services. Where the need arises, technically similar services provided by individual consortia could be harmonised and expanded to form a basic service. A number of examples of basic services are specified in the NFDI Expert Committee Statement, the Berlin Declaration and the Leipzig-Berlin Declaration on cross-cutting NFDI issues.

It is possible to cluster several basic services in a single proposal for the funding of a basic service initiative. The essential requirements for the funding of basic service initiatives are as follows:

  • Subject-specific and methodological consortia themselves cannot provide the requested basic service(s) on a long-term basis and, in particular, they are unable to do so for potentially all consortia.
  • Basic service initiatives must be closely aligned with the shared needs of the subject-specific consortia, and this needs orientation must be appropriately demonstrated in the proposal.
  • In principle, all consortia have an interest in using the basic service; this must be shown with the proposal. The actual use of a basic service in subject-specific and methodological consortia can vary over time, as can the contributions of individual consortia to a basic service. Unless services are intended for all NFDI consortia as a matter of principle, however, they cannot be funded as basic services.
  • Basic service initiatives must develop their technical solutions by means of a process that is supported by the subject-specific and methodological consortia and they must ensure acceptance by the consortia. This process of negotiation is fundamental to a basic service initiative: it must be carried out in advance of proposal submission based on a basic service needs assessment and must be documented in the proposal. This process has to be continued on an ongoing basis over the course of the project in order to meet changing needs; plans to this effect are to be presented in the proposal.

The development of basic services is to be based as far as possible on existing technical solutions; in particular, the robustness, security and scalability of the technology to be subsequently used are to meet the requirements of the subject-specific and methodological consortia. However, if the need formulated by the consortia can only be met by developing a new technical solution, this will likewise be eligible for funding. In a case where development of a new solution is justified, the proposal must include both a development concept and an implementation plan. Parallel development of different technical solutions to meet a single need is only possible in exceptional cases and only permissible if the necessity for different technical solutions is clearly derived from consortia’s needs. A substantial description of technical implementation is expected for the reuse of technical solutions with priority status and for their further development as well as for solutions that are to be newly developed.

Open licences are to be issued as far as possible with a view to securing sustainable operation of basic services. In order to ensure that optimum design of basic service operation – essentially for long-term use – the proposal should include a risk assessment for potential lock-in effects and suitable precautions to avoid these. One approach might be the choice of non-proprietary technical solutions and also the establishment of distributed structures that enable long-term operation, even allowing for a change in provider. The proposal is to include an operation and service concept that describes the handling of such challenges, as well as aspects such as appropriate support for the use of basic services.

One point that is relevant to success and requires comprehensive communicative and organisational planning is the relationship between basic service initiatives on the one hand and subject-specific and methodological consortia on the other, as well as how a basic service initiative relates to the sections and bodies of the NFDI Association. For this reason, the proposal must include an organisational and communication concept that addresses these aspects.

Notes on the decision-making procedure

The Joint Science Conference (GWK) will decide in November 2022 on the funding of basic service initiatives as well as the funding of the subject-specific consortia from the third round. Planning provides for a total of up to 30 consortia to receive funding in connection with the NFDI. A total sum of up to €70 million per year in direct project costs is available for the funding of up to 30 consortia in the final phase. Basic service initiatives can only be funded if the number of 30 eligible consortia has not already been exhausted by subject-specific or methodological consortia.

The evaluation and decision-making process for basic service initiatives will include a vote by the Scientific Senate of the NFDI. This vote is held after the DFG review and is based on both the proposal(s) and the outcome of the review. The vote of the Scientific Senate is submitted to the NFDI Expert Committee together with the result of the review, thereby enabling the NFDI Expert Committee to evaluate the proposal(s) based on these two assessments and make a recommendation to the GWK. The vote of the Scientific Senate is forwarded to the GWK together with the recommendation issued by the NFDI Expert Committee.

Deadlines and proposal submission

Proposals for funding for basic service initiatives can only be submitted under this call for proposals. The commencement of funding envisaged under this call is 1 January 2023. Proposals can be submitted for an initial funding period of five years.

A binding Letter of Intent is mandatory for a proposal submission. Please note, this binding Letter of Intent must provide conclusive and complete details of the names of all applicant and co-applicant institutions as well as the spokesperson, co-spokespersons and all participants. Later adaptations or additions are not permitted. Please consider equality and diversity in the composition of your consortium.

Basic service initiatives can choose between two organisational forms to apply for funding for the development and operation of basic services: 1. as an independent consortium or 2. as a joint collaboration between NFDI consortia.

Please send your binding Letter of Intent by e-mail to by no later than 21 March 2022 using the form provided by the DFG for this purpose.

The proposal submission deadline is 29 April 2022. The proposal must be submitted via the DFG’s elan portal. The entire proposal and review process is conducted in English.

Further Information

Information on basic services

Statement issued by the NFDI Expert Committee dated November 2020:

National Research Data Infrastructure: Funding of consortia (third round of calls):

Statement by the NFDI Expert Committee on the preparation and submission of proposals for basic service consortia in connection with the NFDI:

Statement on basic services issued by the Consortia Assembly of the National Research Data Infrastructure Association

Berlin Declaration on cross-cutting NFDI issues:

Leipzig-Berlin Statement on cross-cutting NFDI issues in infrastructure development:

Further information on the NFDI Association e. V.:

Information on proposal submission

Please refer to the programme guidelines for detailed information on how to apply (eligibility, type and scope of funding, details of the procedure, etc.):

Eligibility criteria for NFDI consortia including further guidance:

For information on preparing your binding letter of intent, see:

Detailed instructions on preparing your NFDI basic service initiative proposal and a proposal template can be found in the following document:

In addition to submitting the proposal electronically, the applicant or coordinating institution must print out and sign the compliance form generated via elan after uploading the proposal and send this to the DFG. Please submit the compliance form by post by 13 May 2022.

For all the above documents and further information, see:

Contact for questions regarding proposal submission for basic service initiative:

In addition, the following contacts are available to answer questions about the NFDI:

  • Dr. Johannes Fournier
    Tel. +49 228 885-2418
  • Dr. Daphné Kerremans
    Tel. +49 228 885-2847
  • Dr. Anne Lipp
    Tel. +49 228 885-2260

Alternatively, you are welcome to send us your questions by e-mail:

Please also note our FAQs.