NL-BioImaging AM (NL-BI) is the national research infrastructure network for advanced optical microscopy in life sciences which includes all major Dutch life science institutes. The roadmap application therefore is neither a new facility built from scratch nor a convenience alliance by individual PIs, but a national infrastructure of established advanced optical microscopy (AOM) core facilities embedded in research departments and institutes. NL-BI will provide coordinated access to four complementary, multi-sited platforms of cutting-edge imaging technologies to enable a broad range of life scientists to make groundbreaking discoveries. Major capabilities offered by NL-BI will include advanced organoid imaging, deep tissue microscopy, and intravital microscopy. The advanced optical microscopy that delivers this potential is a set of highly specialized techniques, whose complexity, cost, and data rates are continuously increasing.
The required investments in high-tech instrumentation, IT infrastructure, and highly skilled operators and engineers has become a major challenge to sustain for individual life science laboratories. Access to the latest advanced microscopy techniques and the expertise to exploit the instruments at full performance has thus become a major bottleneck for progress competitiveness in life science research in The Netherlands. NL-BI forms a large-scale national research infrastructure to:
• enable open access to next generation microscopies (especially 3D and real time) and their quantitative data analysis through a set of complementary platforms of excellence;
• develop new services for multi-parameter intravital and functional imaging techniques to support research on complex (patho)physiologically relevant processes;
• coordinate a national network for image data analysis and management that provides Findable Accessible Interoperable Reusable (FAIR) data management and training.
These priorities are underpinned by an extensive survey of the best Dutch life scientists, ranging from early-career holders of prestigious grants to large research consortia as well as all microscopy core facilities that have an excellent view of the needs of the national user community. Next-generation 3D imaging technologies and the associated data analysis challenges have been identified as a high-priority to secure national competitiveness in the life sciences. Specifically, needs for high-performance real-time imaging ranging from high-resolution subcellular imaging to intravital imaging, as well as high-throughput and correlative microscopy were most pertinent.
The survey also identified a critical general bottleneck in data management and availability of data analysis tools for multi-parameter and large image datasets. Addressing this urgent need is beyond the reach of individual academic centres and requires a nationally coordinated solution. NL-BI will take on the challenge of structured image data-management following the FAIR principles, coordinated by a new NL-BI node-overarching data network for nationwide distribution and imaging facility staff training (‘train the trainers concept’).
NL-BI ensures open-access support in the fields of translational imaging and a bright future for the Dutch life sciences. The NL-BI network of image data experts will closely collaborate with the general data services team of the ESFRI infrastructure Euro-BioImaging to follow international standards. In summary, by providing coordinated access to the Netherlands’ top-level imaging technology platforms for next generation technologies and by implementing a nation-wide digital image analysis environment supported by expert image analysts, the NL-BI roadmap proposal will provide coordinated infrastructure deployment and achieve the much-needed excellence in advanced optical microscopy and secure the international competitiveness of Dutch life science research.