Three teams of scientists, including several from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), have been awarded a total of €39.2 million to establish or improve large-scale research facilities. The investment, which is part of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science’s National Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities, is a major boost for research in the Netherlands.
The three projects concern a revolutionary digital database for the humanities, the upgrading of experiments at the CERN particle accelerator, and the development of the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope.
The financed facilities are:
CLARIAH (Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities) is developing digital infrastructure to bring together large collections of data and software from different fields in the humanities. This will enable humanities researchers – including historians, literary researchers, archaeologists, linguists, speech technologists and media researchers – to explore cross-disciplinary issues relating to, for example, social and cultural change. CLARIAH has been awarded €12 million to develop research instruments and train academics. This project is immensely important to the development of the humanities in the Netherlands, representing a digital revolution that will drastically change the nature of research. It also has the potential for significant broader social impacts.
Participating organisations: Huygens ING, the International Institute for Social History (IISG), Meertens Institute, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Radboud University Nijmegen (RU), Utrecht University (UU), the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and VU University Amsterdam (VU). Project leader: Professor A.F. Lex Heerma van Voss (IISG).
The Netherlands is making an important contribution to the research being conducted at the LHC particle accelerator at CERN, Geneva. Nikhef is taking part in three experiments at the LHC on behalf of the Netherlands and has received €15.2 million to upgrade these. The grant pertains to the ATLAS, ALICE and LHCb detectors, and the computing infrastructure for data storage and analysis. A large number of scientists at CERN are trying to find answers to the many questions surrounding matter, anti-matter, Higgs particles, dark matter and quarks. The scientific quality of the contributions from the Netherlands is excellent and is a strong incentive for young researchers.
Participating organisations: FOM-Nikhef, Radboud University Nijmegen (RU), Utrecht University (UU), University of Amsterdam (UvA) and VU University Amsterdam (VU). Project leader: Professor Frank Linde (Nikhef and UvA).
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is to become the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope. Construction will start in 2018 in both South Africa and Australia, and from 2020 SKA will start producing images from the time at which the earliest stars and galaxies were formed. ASTRON is leading the international consortia tasked with developing the Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) and the Mid Frequency Aperture Array (MFAA) and has been awarded €12 million for this. The money will also be used to develop hardware and software to process the data that the telescope will be producing in future. The facility researches questions about the universe that can only be studied through radio waves. The Netherlands has played a leading role in the world of radio astronomy for almost 70 years, thanks partly to the Westerbork radio telescope and the construction of the LOFAR radio telescope.
Participating organisations: ASTRON, University of Amsterdam (UvA), University of Groningen (RUG), Leiden University (UL) and Radboud University Nijmegen (RU). Project leader: Dr Michiel van Haarlem (ASTRON).
The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science annually provides €40 million to the National Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities, and every two years the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) allocates this money to research teams applying for it. An NWO advisory committee assesses project applications on the basis of scientific quality, level of innovation, relevance to the Netherlands and organisational quality. The National Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities includes 29 research facilities as of 2012, of which six are now being financed.