This plan is the outcome of an extensive dialogue we conducted with members in 2020. Divided into five sectors, they collected, discussed and described priorities. Not only within each sector, but also between the sectors the discussion about the course of the cooperative took place. The same applies here: setting priorities means making choices, and that is what we have done. In the next two years, we will realise our joint ambitions within seven themes. An overview of the agreements we have made for the next two years:
‘It was a golden move to bring research and other together for this process. It is fruitful to discuss things that concern you in a peer group. Despite the mixed, large group, we were able to focus and choose three priorities.’
Theme: Making education more flexible: freedom of choice for the student
The student-centred approach and lifelong development are clearly stated ambitions. As a student in the Netherlands, you must be able to determine your own curriculum: choose from programmes offered by different institutions; determine the time and place yourself. This freedom of choice demands something from our organisations. Together, we want to ensure that there are no administrative or logistical constraints. SURF provides the shared vision for an infrastructure for flexible education. In it, we agree on standards, architecture, and inter-national connections. The Acceleration Plan for Educational Innovation with IT also focuses on this. SURF provides the technical solutions to realise the ambitions.
Mirjam Koster (secondary vocational education):
‘Let's argue as a whole education column for granting students learning rights from the moment they are born, so that they can build and stack their own records throughout their lives. In this way, we can build a coherent, modular education system together.’
Theme: Research data management: FAIR and secure
Research thrives on openness. We want to make all research data available according to FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). To this end, we are developing a federated data ecosystem for data that is shared, used and stored according to the same standards and under appropriate conditions. We will agree on the standards and conditions together. SURF also encourages the use, monitoring, and appreciation of open science through training and knowledge sharing. Persistent identifiers are used to support researchers. We work together on the ambitions of the National Platform Open Science (NPOS). And we organise the Dutch contribution to the federated system of the European Open Science Cloud with partners of the NPOS.
Rens Buchwaldt (universities):
‘Applying the FAIR principles to research is one of the tasks of universities, as is collaborating in data and research across institutional boundaries: this does not stop at national borders. These are particularly subjects in which universities can play a pioneering role.’
Theme Collaboration in research: borderless and with accessible computing power
Scientific and applied research is not limited by the boundaries of an institution or research group. We want to optimise collaboration so that researchers can work together online in a simple and secure way. Digital or virtual research environments (DRE/VRE) give researchers access to local, national, and international data services and computing power. SURF organises vision creation for a federated infrastructure with existing services or services to be developed by research communities, market parties, and SURF. We use public cloud services under the right conditions. SURF supports researchers and research communities in using the available facilities, including visualisations, and organises coordination regarding investment in local computer facilities.
Corné Mulders (umc’s):
‘In recent years, the UMCs have been able to make speed with a Digital Research Environment. We think we can certainly provide added value there as a frontrunner. On the other hand, we rely heavily on the educational expertise of the others.’
Theme Data control: on our own terms
Data is what it is all about these days. There is a shift taking place from a technical infrastructure to a data infrastructure, as was also apparent from the WTR report published earlier this year entitled 'Collaboration on service infrastructures and competencies for data'. In order to unify the fragmented data, SURF is organising a joint vision of the data infrastructure. A vision that describes how we wish to utilise the value of educational data, study data, research data, and medical data. And how we will share knowledge and expertise about them. With all the accompanying perspectives: legal, ethical, technological, contractual, organisational, managerial and financial. In the vision, we answer the question of how we will organise professional federated data services for the storage, use, distribution and archiving of data. And we make agreements about standards and architec- ture. Of course we do this within the framework of legislation and regulations, and we protect public values such as openness and democratic control.
Theme Security: resilient yet open
At the end of last year, we saw how far-reaching the consequences of a cyber attack can be. We need to be able to recognise suspicious patterns in time, so that we can intervene quickly and adequately when security issues arise. Therefore, in the coming period we will work together on the Security Operations Centre (SOC) and Security Incident and Event Monitoring (SIEM). We are also developing a joint strategic vision of members on cyber security that will give direction and cohesion to existing and new initiatives. Finally, we will start exploring the possibility of carrying out Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) and security audits within SURF.
Theme IT infrastructure for education and research: state-of-the-art
We want to keep our IT infrastructure secure and state-of-the-art. In a world that is developing ever more rapidly, that requires continued investment in services and innovation. Within SURF, we are developing a shared sourcing strategy, including agreements on standards and architectural principles for the longer term. The conditions for using the infrastructure are geared to the desire of researchers, teaching staff, students, and employees to work independently of time, place, and device. SURF continues to provide world-class IT facilities. As the governing organisation, we ensure that IT suppliers provide their services in an integrated way under our conditions.
Inge Grimm (hbo):
‘You can compare our IT infrastructure with the railway. If you want to offer the flexibility to really focus on the student, then we have to ensure that all the different railway lines continue to connect with each other. If you also want - and we do - the student to be able to find the correct departure and arrival times in the railway timetable, we will have to work together to bring the clocks more into line within the hbo, but also in the chain of mbo-hbo-wo.’
Theme Innovation with technology: experimenting together
Innovation is one of the driving forces in education and research. Within the cooperative, we can strengthen the power of innovation through collaboration and knowledge sharing. SURF does not have an independent research task as a knowledge institution, but utilises the innovation that is developed in IT and domain research. In targeted collaboration with research groups and, for example, libraries, SURF translates this knowledge into the desired requirements in terms of facilities and support. Making the knowledge of frontrunners available is a priority. As a cooperative, we are developing an understanding of the impact and potential added value of experimenting with new technologies, for example augmented reality/virtual reality, serious gaming, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and edge computing, privacy-enhanced technologies, and future computing. Together, we develop validated concepts and pilots and cooperate in technological innovation and applications for research and education.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
Over the coming period, we will all be working to put the plans in the SURF 2-year plan into practice. In any case, the start is promising: there is a great deal of enthusiasm and a relentless energy in all sectors to use IT for talent development and top performance.
On 7 October, the Members' Council discussed the draft 2-year plan. That same day, it was the subject of discussion during the online SURF Summit. The themes in the 2-year plan were examined in various theme groups. On 9 December 2020, the Members' Council will adopt the final version of the 2-year plan, including the budget for 2021.
Our compass: the SURF Long-Term Agenda 2019-2022
We agreed on this in the Long-Term Agenda 2019-2022: to enable researchers nationally and internationally to cooperate in a safe way so that they can achieve top performance, and to offer students the flexibility they need in order to develop their talents. The members of the SURF cooperative have set the course for four years in the Medium-term Agenda. In order to increase the involvement of the members of the cooperative, we have made new agreements in 2019 and 2020, for example about the way in which we make plans. The first concrete result of this is the 2-year plan 2021-2022.
What are we going to do as a cooperative in 2021 and 2022?" is an article from the December edition of SURF Magazine 2020.
Text: Tessie Vilé
Illustration: SURF/Studio Koelewijn Brüggenwirth