Key points from the SURF Members' Council of 6 April 2022

At the Members' Council meeting on 6 April, topics discussed included the membership and target group policy, the current situation for SURF services in terms of costs, income and take-up, and the start of two Roadmaps in the area of cybersecurity. You can read more about the main points in this post.
Bovenaanzicht van studenten achter computer met mobiel

The following topics were discussed with the Members' Council:

Member and target group policy

The basic idea behind the Members' and Target Groups' Policy is that the core of SURF consists of the members, known as the Ring 0. In addition to the two statutory conditions, we formulated a third condition, which is not exclusive, however. This one implies that the prospective member is included in the NWO grant scheme and/or is a provider of NVAO-accredited programs. Compliance with this third condition does not automatically qualify for membership, but neither does non-compliance automatically lead to rejection of the membership application. If the first two conditions are met, which are exclusive, the third condition can be discussed. At the meeting the members agreed to the three conditions.

In addition, there was discussion about non-members and whether they can purchase services from SURF and what conditions they must then meet. The idea was discussed of setting up two rings, in addition to ring 0, with ring 1 consisting of organizations that are part of the ecosystem of education and research but that cannot become members of SURF for formal reasons (because they do not satisfy the statutory conditions) and ring 2 consisting of organizations that can temporarily use SURF's services in the context of collaboration with members and/or for the purpose of market innovation. The Members' Council agreed with these ideas, which will now be worked out in more detail.

New membership applications

Three organisations submitted applications for membership of SURF: Stichting Vakinstelling SVO (secondary vocational education), Hout- en Meubilerings College (secondary vocational education) and the Nederlands Forensisch Instituut (NFI). The Members' Council approved the intended decision of the Executive Board to allow the three parties to become members of the cooperative.

Tariff policy

The Members' Council was taken through the current situation for SURF services in terms of costs, income and take-up. The current complexity is great; reduction is necessary but not easy. The current overhead includes a number of cost types that are not "classic" overhead and the item is therefore not transparent; it will be further specified and cleaned up in the coming period. In parallel, we are looking at the portfolio of services and the associated life cycle. We will examine these in terms of costs, revenues, purchase quantities and stage of development. This will provide more insight into possible measures such as steering for growth in the purchase of specific services or phasing out services. The Council of Members recognized and acknowledged the complexity of the tariff model and complimented the model on its sound and thorough approach to adjusting it and making it future-proof. For the next step, we are setting up a committee consisting of administrators (not necessarily Members Council members) that will work with the Board of Directors to go deeper into the matter. The same will be organized from the Coordinating SURF Contacts.

IPv4 addresses

A proposal for the (step-by-step) sale of IPv4 addresses was discussed with and approved by the Members' Council. This proposal was made in close consultation with experts from the members. The financial resources that arise from the sale of the first tranche of IPv4 addresses will be allocated to stimulating the uptake of IPv6 within the community.

Security roadmaps

As a follow-up to the Cybersecurity Innovation Area adopted by the Members' Council in December 2021, two roadmaps were drawn up as part of SURF's strategy. This was done in close consultation with representatives from the members. The objectives, approach and governance of the roadmaps 'Together in Control' and 'Technology, Awareness and Skills' were endorsed by the Members' Council, with compliments for both content and process, and a request to proceed with implementation.

The Council of Members is informed of the following developments:

War in Ukraine

SURF is assisting its members with actions arising from the appeal made by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science regarding partnerships with educational and knowledge institutions in Russia and Belarus. SURF is also taking a number of other actions. In coordination with SURFcert, for example, there is extra cybersecurity monitoring. In consultation with GÉANT and CERN/Nikhef we are investigating whether there are connections with Russian and Belarusian parties that need to be frozen. In addition, following the EU sanctions, SURF painfully blocked the websites of Russia Today and Sputnik.

Growth fund application education

Together with the universities of applied sciences, research universities, and universities of applied sciences (in coordination with UNL, VH, and MBO Raad), SURF submitted an application to the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science for the Growth Fund at the end of October 2021.  On behalf of the sectors, a delegation of representatives spoke with the Growth Fund committee. We expect to receive a final decision shortly.

Request for SURF to be mandated on behalf of the Netherlands for the EOSC Association

SURF has been nominated by the National Program Open Science (NPOS), to Minister Dijkgraaf as a mandated member of the EOSC Association on behalf of the Netherlands. All Dutch public institutions and organizations in the EOSC Association support this request. A mandated member not only contributes its own vision, but also the vision of the country it represents and is responsible for informing all stakeholders about what is being discussed in EOSC. In the Netherlands, this is largely done via NPOS. The minister has let it be known that he will nominate SURF.

Vision regarding Open Educational Resources

The administrators concerned in the Acceleration Plan's "Koersteam" have developed a vision for Open Educational Resources. That vision should lead to a more efficient and more accessible system, with more of the responsibility falling to the educational institutions. By signing the declaration, UNL (formerly VSNU), VH, and SURF committed themselves to that vision. This development is closely aligned with the Education Innovation Area described in the new SURF Strategy.

Procurement and legitimacy

In response to a question during the previous Council of Members, it was confirmed that most of what is offered by SURF is supplied legally. Because mediation agreements were previously used, a small proportion of the range of products still has to be converted. That portion is clear and is part of the planning. Institutions can contact their SURF account manager if they need justification for the legitimacy of their own purchasing via SURF in the context of the audit.

A new agreement for the purchase of Services

With the creation of the new SURF organisation, SURF drew up a new set of Agreements governing the relationship between SURF and service users, both members and non-members. This set consists of a Framework Agreement for each recipient, the General Terms and Conditions, and the Annex on Processor Agreements (insofar as these apply to SURF services). After a new Framework Agreement per user has been signed (and the associated General Terms and Conditions and Annex Processor Agreements), a Service Level Agreement will be concluded for each service purchased. The draft versions of this system are ready and we will submit them in the coming month to lawyers on the members' side who will advise the CSC Chairmen on them. The documents will then go to the Members' Council on 22 June 2022 for approval. After approval from the Members' Council, all institutions will have to sign new contracts. This is an extensive job for which we are making a separate planning.

VAT and Procurement of Digital Content

As of January 1, 2020, the government reduced the VAT rate for electronic publications from 21% to 9%. This includes books, educational information, newspapers, weeklies and magazines and other publications that appear at least three times a year. In consultation with representatives of the libraries of UNL and VH (UKB and SHB), SURF will therefore apply this reduced rate from 1 January 2020.

In some parts the law leaves room for interpretation. In order to get clarity on the grey areas that have arisen, SURF consulted with its tax advisor. In a number of areas we received positive confirmation that the low rate applies. This leads to a structural cost saving for the sector. However, it does not apply to all the digital content that we as SURF purchase for education and research.  For example, we are still having a discussion about "Open Access" and then specifically about publications. For reading rights the low rate applies, but publication rights seem to fall just outside the law. Discussions with the Tax Administration have not yet led to a clear statement.

Because SURF has applied the low rate since 2020, there is a financial risk if it turns out at a later stage that the high rate should apply. The Tax Authorities can then claim back retroactively. UNL and VH accept this risk and the majority of the digital contracts have been concluded on their behalf. UNL is tackling the subject within a VAT working group set up for this purpose within the Business and Finance Steering Group (SBF). SURF will be happy to provide support with the knowledge that it has acquired in this area through procurement and taxation.

Changes in the Council of Members

  • Huug de Deugd stepped down as a member of the Board of Governors of Inholland University of Applied Sciences on 1 March 2022. This created a vacancy in the hbo department.
  • Agnes Muskens was appointed vice-chairman of the Board of Governors of Radboud University as of 1 January 2022.
  • Josefien Kursten takes over Mark Janssen's seat in the Council of Members as of today. Josefien is a member of the Board of Governors of UMC Utrecht.

Council of Members meetings in 2022

The next Council of Members meetings in 2022 will be held on 22 June, 12 October and 7 December.