Effectively and Sustainably Securing Research Data


The Joint Science Conference (GWK) has approved funding for nine consortia for the establishment of a National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). RWTH is participating in three of the consortia and even heading the NFDI4Ing consortium – the only one focused on engineering sciences.


In academia, research data is often only stored temporarily and for individual projects. However, professional online research data management is becoming increasingly important. As part of a National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) for the entire German academic system, standards in data management should be determined in the future. An online, regionally distributed, and networked knowledge repository is also set to secure research data in the long term and make it usable. The NFDI is developed by users of research data and infrastructure facilities working together in different consortia.

The NFDI will be established as a network of consortia over a period of three years in three funding rounds, with new consortia possibly admitted in each round. The aim is to establish an overall structure of interlinked consortia as a national research data service. Out of the 22 applications from the first selection round, 9 consortia have now been approved for funding. RWTH is involved in the consortia NFDI4Ing, NFDI4Cat, and NFDI4Chem, and even acts as consortium leader for NFDI4Ing. The consortia in the first funding round will be given the opportunity to shape the development of the NFDI from the very beginning. Subject to the provision of funds by their legislative bodies, the German Federal Government and the Länder will provide up to 90 million euros for the establishment and promotion of the NFDI each year from 2019 to 2028, with the Federal Government providing 90 percent of the costs and the Länder 10 percent.

Research Data in the Engineering Sciences

The engineering sciences are also being called upon to secure high-quality and sustainable research data in order to contribute to strong solutions for future social issues and urgent environmental and economic challenges. The NFDI4Ing consortium, coordinated by RWTH Aachen University, aims to establish a research data management system that both strengthens the transparency and traceability of research results in engineering. It is the only sponsored network in the field of engineering sciences and was initiated in 2017 by RWTH and the Technical University of Darmstadt. Since then, the consortium has been expanded to include additional partners. In all, the (co-)applicant institutions are:

  • RWTH Aachen University
  • Technische Universität Braunschweig
  • Darmstadt University of Technology
  • TU Dresden
  • German Airspace Center
  • Leibniz Universität Hannover
  • TIB – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology University Library
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Technical University of Munich
  • University of Stuttgart

“NFDI4Ing represents a great opportunity for the engineering sciences to create the necessary infrastructure for the further development of the disciplines and to accelerate networking processes,” said NFDI4Ing spokesperson Professor Robert Schmitt from the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management and WZL of RWTH and Professor Peter Pelz from TU Darmstadt, deputy spokesperson. To this end, three aspects will be focused on: improving training in data literacy, developing a governance concept for the handling of research data, and ensuring broad availability of technologies and services for machine-readable data. “NFDI4Ing effectively connects eight universities and three non-university institutions of the Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers in a fantastic open team. We are very pleased to have been successful in this highly competitive selection process and to have so much confidence placed in us," the speakers continued.
Find out more about the participating institutions, planned topics, and events here.

Data Management in Chemistry

The NFDI4Chem consortium includes various data producers and users from the fields of research and infrastructure as well as a number of professional associations related to the topic. The chemistry consortium intends to represent all disciplines of chemistry in academia. The aim is to create a holistic concept by digitizing all the major steps in chemical research to help researchers collect, store, process, analyze, disclose, and reuse their data. The measures are promoting open science and research data management in accordance with the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable). The consortium was formally founded in fall 2019 and is supported by the German Chemical Society (GDCh), the German Bunsen Society for Physical Chemistry (DBG), and the German Pharmaceutical Society (DPhG). The consortium leader is Friedrich Schiller University Jena, with RWTH Professor Sonja Herres-Pawlis from the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry as co-spokesperson.

Find out more about the participating institutions, planned topics, and events here.

Catalysis-Related Sciences

The NFDI4Cat consortium is formed of experts from a wide range of fields in catalysis research, reaction and process engineering, and information technology. Catalysis is one of the key technologies for solving the global challenges of climate change, sustainable energy, and materials supply. To solve these pressing issues, a fundamental change is required in catalysis research, chemical engineering, and process technology. A key challenge to this change is being able to bring together the different disciplines in catalysis science and technology. A common understanding of the catalysis sciences and the corresponding development of universal guiding principles as well as the standardization of work processes are required for this. The results must also be equally accessible to all researchers. This requires increasing digitization by creating high-performance information architectures, which enable the storage, exchange, and analysis of data using the most modern tools of artificial intelligence. Software packages and tools allow the theory to be extended to areas such as simulation and experimental studies in the design, characterization, and kinetics of catalysts and related technical aspects. The consortium leader is DECHEMA Association for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology with RWTH Aachen University acting as co-applicant.

Find out more about the participating institutions, planned topics, and events here.