Groningen Techcentre for Life Sciences: towards the first local DTL

DTL is a network of Dutch life sciences professionals that jointly develop an interconnected research infrastructure. Our focus is on FAIR data treatment, accessible high-end technologies, and expert training: Data, Technologies, and Learning. People at Groningen University and UMCG are now establishing a local version of the national DTL network. Dr Morris Swertz, Dr Salome Scholtens, and Dr Marina de Giorgi explain what is happening in Groningen.

Swertz is associate professor ‘Big data in biomedicine’ at University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). He explains: “The seed for a ‘Groningen Techcentre for Life Sciences’ (GTLS) was planted as early as 2014. There is a lot of service and expertise related to data, technologies, and learning in Groningen, but it is rather fragmented. We wanted to bring this together, to enhance knowledge and expertise exchange, to create a platform for developing new research questions, and to increase our opportunities in funding calls. So, I arranged local funding from the UMCG and Groningen University to facilitate a local network. In 2016, we received the green light for this initiative and Salome Scholtens started as the Community Manager of the GTLS in March 2017.”

Morris Swertz presenting the GTLS at DTL’s Partner Advisory Committee Meeting on 16 June 2017.

Three elements
Scholtens: “We have explored what would be a good way to interconnect the local community and the different initiatives and we have discussed this with members of the DTL core team. GTLS will be a local support and coordination initiative that brings together the Technology Hotels* that are active in Groningen. In addition, it will interconnect the local projects in the fields of data, technologies, and learning. In other words, DTL Groningen will encompass the same three elements as the national DTL network. Establishing an efficient channel to the national DTL network will also be one of our major activities.”

Scholtens: “As a first step, we have now contacted all Technology Hotels in Groningen. We have informed them about the Enabling Technologies Hotels call that is currently open. In addition, we have offered to bring them in contact with researchers that may want to apply for funding and we have offered support in the process. I view the Hotels as hubs with specific expertise and own identity. We want to improve their interconnection and findability. In addition, we can enhance the visibility of the national DTL hub locally among researchers. Doing so in close collaboration with the Hotels and the experts is key.”

Salome Scholtens

GTLS is closely linked to the data and IT activities in Groningen and is part of a broader local alliance on human research data (NAHRS) which is currently being set-up. The team is involved in two local data-related programmes that are running: the Human subjects research data programme and the second is the Research IT programme. Scholtens: “These programmes are developing the infrastructure needed for enhanced research data handling at Groningen University and UMCG. In Groningen, the medical centre and university work on this together, because all faculties of Groningen University are conducting research involving human subjects. In addition, research data management requires a multidisciplinary approach and each faculty and university service has its own expertise. These programmes will deliver an infrastructure and an easy-accessible data service centre for researchers.

Swertz adds: “In addition to these two programmes, there are other strategic links. To name just a few, Groningen is actively involved in the NFU programme Data4lifesciences, in FAIR Data projects, and in the Dutch biobanking infrastructure BBMRI-NL2.0. Again, we will exchange with the national DTL network on best practices, tools, and more.”

Modern life sciences call for advanced data and technological expertise. Researchers and research support need training to acquire such skills, which is the focus of the DTL Learning programme. Scholtens: “Many training activities exist in Groningen. For instance, we recently organised a one-day course on privacy aspects of research data stewardship. From September, we will organise a course on research data management for PhD students at UMCG. We will integrate this in Groningen’s graduate schools and connect to existing training programmes outside Groningen.

Marina De Giorgi

Reaching out
De Giorgi is Partnership Development Manager / Funding officer at Groningen University. She adds: “I would like to stress that we are very eager to collaborate with people outside Groningen as well. For instance, we would like to connect with other DTL partners that are looking to strengthen the local connections. The DTL core team may act as a broker here.” Groningen is the first to develop a local version of DTL. “We only just started, so we are first charting the lay of the land, contacting all suspected DTL Groningen members,” concludes Swertz.



* Technology Hotels are expert groups that offer their high-end technologies and the associated expertise and infrastructure to researchers who do not have access to such facilities at their home institute. The DTL website lists 120+ Technology Hotels. You can apply for funding to get access to these Technology Hotels. The deadline for applications is 29 August 2017 at 14:00. You can find more information on the DTL website.

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