Large-scale scientific infrastructures are facilities, resources and services that a research community uses to conduct research and promote innovation in its area. Where relevant, the infrastructure can also be used for other research purposes, for example education or public services.
It concerns, among other things, important scientific equipment or collections of instruments; knowledge-based resources such as collections of natural specimens, archives, book collections or scientific data; e-infrastructures, such as (associated) data files, and computer systems and communication networks; and any other unique infrastructure that is critically important for achieving excellence in research and innovation. This could refer to infrastructures situated in a single location, or virtual or distributed infrastructures (in the Netherlands or further afield).
An infrastructure has to promote a policy of open access for research; that is to say, an infrastructure has to provide access to researchers from outside the hosting organisation(s) based on scientific excellence. ‘Scientific’ should be understood in this case to cover the entire spectrum of fundamental and applied research.
The following points apply to distributed scientific infrastructures:
- They provide one central access point for researchers from external organisations, even though the infrastructure is distributed across multiple locations;
- They have one management board responsible for the entire infrastructure;
- They have a legal structure.
The size of the infrastructure, in terms of total capital investment and operating costs for 5 years, amounts to at least 10 million euros. These costs do not include accommodation costs for the facility. The operating costs pertain exclusively to the costs needed to make the facility accessible. So they do not include the costs for the research programme.
Capital investment is the cost for the development, purchase/construction of the infrastructure or for such a comprehensive adaptation of an existing infrastructure that it will produce scientific breakthroughs.