Establishing cooperation in a new research area

The Nordic eScience Globalisation Initiative (NeGI) will soon be formally concluded after five years of activity. We have spoken with the chair of the programme committee, Professor Juni Palmgren, about the programme's activities and ambitions.

In the course of these five years, the NeGI has launched three initiatives in eScience, encompassing everything from researcher training to major Nordic Centres of Excellence. What are the ambitions underlying this endeavour?

“From the outset the idea was to promote a Nordic exchange of new electronic methods and apply them in the specific context of research. This fuelled the start of two Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoE) in the area of climate and the environment and one in health and welfare. The centres bring together many of the leading researchers in their respective fields. In addition, three research projects were launched with a focus on developing tools and methods to use in the three NCoEs. And lastly we announced funding for universities to design and hold courses,” Juni Palmgren explains.

Why did you choose to focus on researcher training?

Professor Juni Palmgren

“Quite simply because Nordic researcher training makes it possible to specialise in areas where the scientific framework and the number of students in each individual country is relatively modest. The courses are to be targeted enough to be interesting and generic enough to generate new knowledge and benefits. The Nordic region has great potential here, and the NeGI has taken on the challenge,” states Dr Palmgren. She adds, “Experienced researchers don’t always see the intrinsic opportunities of e-tools, so we need to focus on the younger researchers to continue to develop research areas.”

Now that NeGI is drawing to a close, do you see any need for the programme to continue?

“I see a great need for the eScience initiative to continue on a broad scale. It was a ground-breaking effort five years ago when the research councils in Sweden, Norway and Finland contributed to a “common pot” for eScience and to the NeGI. Activity should continue under NordForsk,” states Professor Palmgren, adding:

“We should find ways to implement the Nordic Council of Ministers’ eScience Action Plan 2.0, which, among other things, states that ‘educational efforts are urgently needed’”. We need to develop funding forms and define the distribution of responsibility. I hope that the high-level advisory group on research infrastructures, among others, submits a clear recommendation to the NordForsk Board for NordForsk and Nordic funders to move this forward. A smooth transition post-NeGI is essential.”

eScience in Sweden benefited from being prioritised as a strategic research area in 2008. This led to two eScience research centres: SeRC and eSSENCE. Norway’s eVITA programme has existed for many years. Many countries treat eScience and eInfrastructure as one and the same thing, but in Nordic countries the distinction is very clear.

What will we see a few years down the road when we look back on the overall programme of the NeGI?

“A clearer Nordic context – first and foremost through the three NCoEs. A large number of countries, universities and institutions are involved. The Nordic Information for Action eScience Centre (NIASC) the NCoE in health-related eSciences, has 16 partner institutions. Cooperation is expanding, individuals learn from one another and say yes to Nordic mobility. These factors are very important to competence building. I have seen many young researchers grow as a product the Nordic perspective. I truly hope that eScience and application of eInfrastructure become visible, especially in areas where it has been less common to take advantage of the potential of e-tools, such as environmental research, medicine and social sciences,” Professor Palmgren concludes.


Text: Linn Hoff Jensen

Photo: NordForsk/Terje Heiestad