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Strategic Conference Permanent Committee on National Institutes (PCNI) about infrastructure

On 11 November 2021, the Permanent Committee on National Institutes (PCNI, under the chairmanship of Wim van Saarloos) organised its first strategic conference. The PCNI was established in 2020 by the boards of KNAW and NWO to advise about broad scientific and societal developments that the portfolio of national research institutes can respond to. The conference offers an important occasion for acquiring such insights.

Preparations for the conference

Prior to the conference, six digital consultations were held that covered the entire scientific field. Researchers (young and old), university administrators, institute directors, representatives from industry and government and other relevant stakeholders participated in these. The outcomes from these consultations provided input for the conference of 11 November.

Theme: Infrastructure

The PCNI chose the theme infrastructure for the conference because all research domains require infrastructure of sufficient size and with enough support. Furthermore, because infrastructure increasingly transcends the possibilities of a single university, there is broad support for a special role for the national institutes in realising, supporting and further developing this infrastructure, This is broadly interpreted to include equipment, laboratories, physical collections, software and digital data and also the deployment of programmers. The PCNI realises that the term ‘infrastructure’ is often linked to the natural and engineering sciences domain, but underlines that the term also concerns the increasing needs in other domains that transcend the possibilities of a single university.

The conference

More than 150 people representing all stakeholders took part in the hybrid conference that was held in the KNAW premises the Trippenhuis and online. The participants also included several directors from NWO Institutes. Under the leadership of Wim van Saarloos, they discussed how all institutes and universities could strengthen each other’s efforts in the area of infrastructure. One of the conclusions from the participants is that infrastructure must be sustainably funded, but that science must join forces even more to contribute to a solution to the climate problem through research. There was clearly also a considerable need to bring together research data and make this more accessible, including the support associated with this. The chair of the Permanent Committee for Large-Scale Research Infrastructure (PC-LRI), Hans van Duijn, gave a presentation about how the work of the PCNI and PC-LRI can strengthen each other, especially with respect to sustainable embedding. Marcel Levi, President of NWO, rounded off the meeting.

Next steps

The PCNI aims to have NWO and KNAW strongly focus on a research theme that is important for science and society. A theme that can inspire new initiatives within the Dutch institutes landscape and that contributes to the strengthening of science. Based in part on the conference, the PCNI shall draw up an advisory report for the boards of KNAW and NWO and submit this to them at the start of 2022.

The start memorandum and more information about PCNI can be found on the PCNI website (in Dutch only).

Newsletter Inside NWO-I, December 2021









The start memorandum and more information about PCNI can be found on the PCNI website (in Dutch only).



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