National Research Data Infrastructure
The aim of the national research data infrastructure (NFDI) is to systematically manage scientific and research data, provide long-term data storage, backup and accessibility, and network the data both nationally and internationally. The NFDI will bring multiple stakeholders together in a coordinated network of consortia tasked with providing science-driven data services to research communities.
Organised by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the first conference on the National Research Data Infrastructure took place in Bonn from May 13-14. The two-day event has been evaluated as success by all participants. There was a general consensus that the NFDI can only be established in joint responsibility by all stakeholders.
The conference materials can be found here:
The DFG and the Joint Science Conference (GWK) are collaborating on the development and funding of a national research data infrastructure (NFDI) on the basis of an administrative agreement reached by Germany’s federal and state governments on 26 November 2018. The DFG is responsible for the research-driven review and evaluation of the consortia proposals. The GWK makes decisions on the basis of funding recommendations by the DFG. To be eligible for funding within the NFDI framework, consortia must have received a positive review during the review process.
Within the NFDI framework, the consortia, the Consortia Committee, the Research Senate and the Directorate will work together to facilitate and provide a sustainable approach to research data management and research data infrastructure in Germany.
Consortia are groups of users and providers of research data that come together for the purpose of long-term cooperation. They may include universities, non-university research institutions, ministerial research agencies, academies, and other publicly funded information infrastructure facilities. Generally organised by research area or method, their aim is to improve and safeguard access to and use of research data in their relevant area, thereby contributing to sustainable data management.
Each consortium is represented by a spokesperson. The spokespersons of the consortia make up the Consortia Committee, the central research body of the NFDI. The Consortia Committee makes all research, operational and service-related decisions on behalf of the NFDI consortia and the NFDI and decides on the introduction of cross-disciplinary procedures, services and/or standards relating to the NFDI, within the scope of the principles approved by the NFDI Research Senate.
The Research Senate is the central strategic body of the NFDI. It advises the GWK on all fundamental matters relating to the ongoing development of the national research data infrastructure and ensures that the NFDI connects smoothly with national and international developments.
The Directorate consists of a full-time chair and other persons as required. It is appointed for a set term. The Directorate recommends courses of action for consideration by the Consortia Committee and the Research Senate, effects the necessary decisions in these bodies and serves as the external representative of the NFDI. The Directorate ensures that cross-disciplinary topics, such as education, data protection and data ethics, are adequately discussed, communicated and coordinated among the NFDI consortia.
At its meeting on 6 December 2018, the Joint Committee of the DFG selected the members of the NFDI Expert Committee, which is tasked with the process of selecting the NFDI consortia. The committee’s main responsibilities are to evaluate proposals on the basis of a review of scientific, information technology, and structural considerations and to formulate funding recommendations for the GWK.
The committee is composed of experts in various branches of science and the humanities who have extensive experience of working abroad, in research management, in scientific infrastructure facilities or in industry.
On the basis of the Federal-State Agreement on the Development and Funding of a National Research Data Infrastructure of 26 November 2018, the NFDI Expert Committee has determined the following key points:
The NFDI will be made up of consortia, which are groups of users and providers of research data that come together for the purpose of long-term cooperation. They may include universities, non-university research institutions, ministerial research agencies, academies and other publicly funded information infrastructure facilities. They are normally organised by subject group or method, with no specifications as to their institutional composition.
The funds awarded to a consortium are managed centrally by one member institution. This institution appoints a spokesperson, who will be responsible for coordinating the submission of proposals and the disbursement of funds. She/he also serves as the external representative of the consortium.
The work programme of a consortium, as defined in the proposal, is divided into task areas. A responsible co-spokesperson must be appointed for each area.
The spokespersons and co-spokespersons for a consortium must adequately represent the user group.
Groups of institutions that may include universities, non-university research institutions, ministerial research agencies, academies and other publicly funded information infrastructure facilities or other appropriate entities are eligible for funding as consortia. Individual institutions/facilities may participate in more than one consortium.
To be eligible for funding, an institution must also be a non-profit organisation and be funded or based in Germany.
Proposal Submission Process and Roles
Proposals are submitted on the basis of a plan developed jointly by all institutions/facilities participating in the consortium. The institution responsible for the management of funds within a consortium is referred to as the applicant institution; it is represented by the head of the institution and the delegated consortium spokesperson. Each co-applicant institution is also represented by the head of that institution and any co-spokesperson(s) responsible for individual task areas.
To complement the specialist or information-related expertise available in the consortium, both academic researchers and experts without a doctoral degree may participate in each phase. Scientific/learned societies and other legal entities may be involved as participants even if they themselves are not eligible to submit proposals. Consortium members may apply for the funds required for participants.
The following roles apply to the proposal submission process:
- Applicant institution (this is the grant recipient that manages the funds and coordinates the distribution of funds within the consortium and at which the consortium spokesperson is based)
- Co-applicant institutions (these receive funds via the applicant institution; the co-spokespersons responsible for the task areas belong to these institutions)
- Participants (these may be non-profit legal entities, specialist societies, scientific/learned societies and natural persons; participants make an ongoing significant contribution to the work of the consortium; such contributions may also be made by institutions/facilities or persons based abroad)
Type of Funding
Additional staff, direct project costs and operating expenses incurred in conjunction with project implementation are eligible for funding, as are expenses for project-related contracted work. The institutions/facilities represented in the consortia make financial contributions to research data management. Instrumentation is only eligible for funding in exceptional circumstances.
When submitting the proposal, the applicant institution lists the sums needed for both staff funding and direct project costs for a period of up to 5 years. The proposal should contain a detailed plan for the distribution of these funds among the participating institutions and task areas. The proposal may also include funds for coordination (including direct administrative costs for the managing institution, if applicable).
Available funding types:
- Funding for staff (lump sum)
- Direct project costs (lump sum)
- Instrumentation funding
Over a period of three years, starting in 2019, the NFDI will be established as a cooperative network of consortia in three consecutive selection rounds. In each round, new consortia can be added to the NFDI in a research-driven process. The aim is to create a comprehensive framework of interconnected consortia providing a national research data service to the research community. In view of the emphasis on networking, the selection process, which is also the establishment phase of the NFDI, must offer sufficient scope for a process that integrates all stakeholders. The governing bodies of the NFDI (the Directorate, the NFDI Research Senate, etc.) will be established gradually, in parallel to the DFG selection process.
The selection process includes consultations, a review process and a comparative evaluation of the proposed consortia, and ends with funding recommendations by the NFDI Expert Committee to the Joint Science Conference (GWK). Funding decisions are made by the GWK.
Networking and Quality Assurance Rather Than Competition
In the selection process for proposed consortia, emphasis will be placed on networking and coordination between consortia and the ongoing development and improvement of proposals during the course of the selection process with a view to achieving an interactive, user-oriented information infrastructure. The consultations and feedback between applicants, reviewers, and the members of the Expert Committee should enable an optimum overall structure on the basis of a uniform quality standard for individual consortia. Precedence is given to the ongoing development and quality assurance as opposed to competition.
Two Phases per Selection Round
To structure the establishment process, each of the three selection rounds is divided into two phases. The first selection round is divided into an initialisation phase and an admission phase, while the second and third rounds are divided into a development phase and an admission phase. The initialisation and development phases precede the admission phases and are intended to facilitate networking, support for the self-organisation of potential consortia, and the planning and adaptation of consortium proposals. The admission phase begins with a call for proposals, includes the submission, review and evaluation of written proposals, and ends with the submission of a funding recommendation to the GWK.
As a first step towards establishing a distributed network of consortia based on a research area or methodology, a joint conference for consortia at all planning stages should be held at the beginning of each selection round. Participation is open to all interested parties, but is not a prerequisite to proposal submission or relevant to the review.
Call for Proposals and the Submission and Review Process
After the conference, a call for proposals for the current admission phase will be published. Consortia apply for inclusion in the NFDI by submitting a written proposal.
The review process involves in-depth exchanges between reviewers and applicants. Presentations by the applicants and ensuing discussions with the reviewers should provide ample opportunity to clarify any open questions – arising from either the written proposal or the oral presentations – and to address potential problems.
As another element of the feedback and quality enhancement process, the consortia will be notified in writing of the review panel’s decision and given the opportunity to respond to the reviewer comments.
Evaluation by NFDI Expert Committee
The Expert Committee will discuss and evaluate all proposals on a comparative basis and with reference to the review and any responses submitted by the applicants.
NFDI conferences will focus on the sharing of information on all planned consortia, regardless of their stage of planning, and networking among consortia. In addition, the DFG will provide information about the NFDI, and there will be an opportunity for discussion with relevant experts from the international research system.
The first NFDI conference was held on 13 and 14 May 2019 at the Maritim Hotel in Bonn.
- 29 March 2019
Deadline for submission of extended abstracts for NFDI conference
- 13 – 14 May 2019
- June 2019
Call for proposals
- June/July 2019
Deadline for submission of binding letters of intent
- October 2019
Deadline for submission of proposals
- November 2019 – January 2020
Review of first-round proposals
- March – April 2020
Consortia notified of review results and opportunity to respond
- April 2020
Meeting of Expert Committee / recommendations submitted to GWK
- June 2020
First funding decision by GWK
The two subsequent selection rounds will be scheduled accordingly. The date of the conference may change to July in the future to allow the newly funded consortia from that year and any non-funded consortia that plan to submit another proposal to attend.
Fundamental inquiries about the NFDI
- Dr. Ulrike Eickhoff
Link auf E-Mailnfdi@dfg.de
- Dr. Anne Lipp
Link auf E-Mailnfdi@dfg.de
- Dr. Johannes Fournier
Tel.: +49 228 885-2418
Link auf E-Mailjohannes.firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiries about the NFDI Expert Committee
- Dr. Matthias Katerbow
Tel. +49 228 885-2358
Link auf E-MailMatthias.email@example.com
Information and advice for applicants
- Dr. Raphael Birke
- Dr. Thomas Rahlf
- Dr. Patricia Schmitz-Möller
- Dr. Stefan Winkler-Nees
Tel.: +49 228 885-3500
Link auf E-Mailnfdi@dfg.de
- DFG Press Release Interner Link“Successful Opening of the National Research Data Infrastructure” (in German only). May 2019
- DFG Information for Researchers Interner Link“National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI)” . February 2019
- DFG Press Release Interner Link"NFDI: DFG to Coordinate Selection and Evaluation of Consortia” (in German only). December 2018
- Press Release of the Joint Science Conference (GWK): Externer LinkForschungsdaten nachhaltig sichern und nutzbar machen – Startschuss für eine Nationale Forschungsdateninfrastruktur (in German only). November 2018
- Federal-State Agreement on the Development and Funding of a National Research Data Infrastructure (Bund-Länder-Vereinbarung zu Externer LinkAufbau und Förderung einer Nationalen Forschungsdateninfrastruktur [NFDI] ) (in German only). November 2018
- Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany
- German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures (RfII)
- Externer LinkDiscussion paper: “Wide Impact for Research: NFDI Consortia as Stakeholders”. December 2018
- Externer LinkDiscussion paper: “Zusammenarbeit als Chance” (in German only). March 2018
- Externer LinkDiscussion paper: “Schritt für Schritt – Oder: Was bringt wer mit?”
(in German only). April 2017
- Externer LinkRecommendations: “Enhancing Research Data Management: Performance Through Diversity” . May 2016
Additional information about the NFDI will be published on this site during the course of the programme. For quick access please use the URL: