Terms of Reference

 ePLAN is based on agreed Terms of Reference, a Kernel Group of active members and Annual Plans with action lines. Below are the Terms of Reference, including the definition of eScience.

1         Definition

eScience is a scientific discipline per se, characterized -but not exclusively or limitedly- by the following:

  • It is concerned with innovative ways in which ICT can be applied to complex scientific or industrial problems;
  • It is concerned with the support of multi-disciplinary research, for example through but not limited to cross-type data integration, the managing of structured and unstructured data sets, data-driven research (“Big Data” research) and data analysis;
  • It is the application of computer technology to the undertaking of modern scientific investigation, including the preparation, experimentation, data collection, results dissemination, and long-term storage;
  • It applies computer algorithms and tools for the interactive specification and maintenance of models and their analysis, visualization and simulation, in order to support scientific in silico experiments;
  • It is concerned with the optimal use and/or optimization of the use of larger parts of an e-infrastructure for scientific applications for complex scientific problems and/or accessibility of all materials generated through the scientific process[1];
  • It is concerned with the optimal use and/or optimization of the use of (high-end) computers in scientific applications for complex scientific problems and/or
  • It is concerned with addressing scientific usage of computers and/or e-infrastructures in cases where the problems are one of the following or a combination of these
    • Compute bound
    • Latency bound
    • Data streaming bound
    • Data complexity bound
    • Data size bound
    • Bound by innovative combinations thereof;
  • In general it is concerned with the application, re-use and re-usability rather than the (from scratch) development of ICT methods, methodologies and tools to support solving complex scientific and/or industrial problems;
  • It encompasses and advocates strongly advanced visualization and pattern recognition in support of its goals.

2         Background

eScience in The Netherlands has come into development through a number of timely coinciding support actions by NWO, NCF and the governmental ICES-KIS funds. Typical projects were NL-grid, NLgrid++, VL-e, iScience, ToKen2000, Challenging Big Data and BRICKS, some of which were clearly inspired by the UK’s developments in escience, where the term was firstly introduced. Common characteristics are the apparent broader applicability of ICT in new scientific domains, the highly improved interconnectivity of systems over networks (internet), the use of newly developed intercommunication languages, such as XML, the new directions in database technologies, the upcoming data-driven research, exemplified by Cern’s LHC and Lofar, but also by the developments in genomics or broader, the bio-informatics. Since data are becoming increasingly dominant in research, escience is also associated with, but does not coincide with the open data, open source, open access and tools and data preservation movements and developments. The link is the large dependence of escience on reliable, usable, sharable and accessible data sets. Because the complexity of escience research no longer allows for exact reproducibility (if only because massively parallel and/or distributed computers deliver their results no longer deterministically), one of the bases of conducting science properly, the open publication of (intermediate) data involved in research projects becomes an inevitable requirement.

In 2010 ICTRegie published its advice on the future of the e-infrastructures in the Netherlands. Part of the advice was to set up what is now called the Netherlands eScience Center (NLeSC). Next to the domain descriptions given above, the notion that there are large opportunities for re-usability of software and tools across disciplines, while at the same time new insights and innovations often stem from interdisciplinary research, was part of the considerations to formalize the support for escience through the establishment of NLeSC. It is a strong signal for the perceived great importance of the escience domain, that also at various universities and research institutes escience is being conducted and educated and escience technologies increasingly implemented in applicable research. Bundling these activities into a collective effort, with all the advantages of scale, intensified cross-fertilization, easing co-operations and international profiling, will strengthen escience as a discipline, avoid doubling of efforts and prevent research activities taking place in isolation.

3         Goals

The goals of ePLAN cover all the topics that help promoting escience as a discipline and strengthening the groups and centers conducting escience. More in particular, ePLAN:

  • Unites the national efforts of escience groups in order to strengthen the Netherlands national position in the escience domain;
  • Forms a platform for exchanging knowledge and expertise in the field;
  • Addresses communication about escience and the way it is showing results in all disciplines;
  • Represents the Netherlands escience scene externally and internationally in addition to the individual representations from the participating members where applicable;
  • Defines evaluation criteria for the quality of escience research;
  • Supports actions towards data stewardship and software sustainability;
  • Will take endeavors to stimulate quality and quality ranking of escience publishing means;
  • Smoothes the interaction between its members;
  • Will coordinate actions towards improved e-infrastructure provisioning;
  • Will improve the skills-level of students and researchers in escience techniques and stimulate the upgrading of the status of escience technologists.

[1] Bohle, S. “What is E-science and How Should it Be Managed?” Nature.com, Spektrum der Wissenschaft (Scientific American), http://www.scilogs.com/scientific_and_medical_libraries/what-is-e-science-and-how-should-it-be-managed/.