Astrid Söderbergh Widding
Astrid Söderbergh Widding, President, Stockholm University. Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

In a 10 January debate article in Ny Teknik, the presidents of twelve Swedish universities, including Stockholm University, called for the government to immediately establish an authority for e-infrastructure for research. The presidents believe that such an authority is a prerequisite for Sweden to continue to develop as a global knowledge and innovation hub. 
One of the signatories of the debate article is Stockholm University’s President, Astrid Söderbergh Widding. When we contacted her, she explained that the Swedish e-infrastructure landscape is fragmented, with many different actors serving different functions, such as The Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC) (calculations), SUNET, the Swedish University Computer Network (data networks) and the Swedish National Data Service (SND) (data), with different authorities as principals.
“This means that there is no infrastructure support adapted to the rapid development that is taking place in the area and to the rapidly growing need for research, which is dependent on such support. If coordinated, effective support with significantly strengthened funding is not created, the development of research in Sweden will be hampered”, says Astrid Söderbergh Widding.

In the spring of 2020, the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) and the Swedish Research Council presented a proposal for a national organisation for e-infrastructure for research. This proposal is in turn based on both an analysis of current conditions in Sweden, which was done by an international expert group, and on the general recommendations for all EU member states. In short, the proposal would mean that a new authority for e-infrastructure will be established with responsibility for coordinating support for researchers and universities within the entire e-infrastructure area.

When the government’s special investigator, Tobias Krantz, submitted his report on research infrastructure last summer, he also advocated for the establishment of a new authority for e-infrastructure. Krantz also emphasised that no existing authority is equipped to take on this responsibility.

Anders Karlhede
Anders Karlhede, senior advisor. Photo: Eva Dalin

Within Stockholm University, e-infrastructure is used in many areas.
“HPC, high performance computing, from SNIC and international players, is crucial for many activities in the field of science, including climate modeling and in the life sciences and materials science. Stockholm University is one of the universities in the country that has the largest use for HPC”, says Anders Karlhede, who is senior advisor to the president with responsibility for infrastructure issues and former vice president at Stockholm University.

Prerequisite for open science

E-infrastructure has a clear connection to open science, a priority area at Stockholm University. According to Astrid Söderbergh Widding, e-infrastructures are a prerequisite for handling large amounts of data. This includes both the management and open sharing of data. E-infrastructures often operate in an international context and provide strong opportunities to collaborate internationally through data sharing. Several e-infrastructures, such as SNIC, SUNET and SND, are players within the EOSC (European Open Science Cloud), which is an EU-led collaboration that aims to create a federated solution for sharing data within Europe and with the rest of the world.

“If Stockholm University is not involved in this context, there is a risk that our research will be isolated. Cooperation within the EOSC can also be supported in the future by a new authority for e-infrastructure. Open science requires a coordinated and well-funded e-infrastructure”.