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Shared Resources – Multiple Benefits

A participation survey is to find out needs and wishes for shared research infrastructure

Oct 01, 2021

The participation platform can be used to indicate needs and ideas for shared resources.

The participation platform can be used to indicate needs and ideas for shared resources.
Image Credit: Screenshot

Excellent research requires excellent equipment. Of course, this is already available at Berlin's three major universities, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. But not every important and useful device is available at every partner institution. And that doesn't have to be the case because joint research and teaching in the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) also means sharing the research infrastructure – and thus using it more efficiently, especially when it comes to particularly costly large-scale equipment. However, for this to happen, it must first be clear: What is available? Where do I find what? Who uses what? Who else could need it? In order to bring together major large-scale research equipment, services, collections, and the like with researchers across the alliance, the BUA is calling on all scientists to take part in a transparent participation survey as part of the Sharing Resources objective area.

“We do not only want to find out what is available and what could be shared, but we also want to know what concrete needs, visions, and wishes the researchers have regarding the shared research infrastructure,” says Dominika Dolzycka, responsible for the “Sharing Resources” process management. The fact that completely new, joint research projects can also emerge is a positive, expressly desired side effect.

“We are looking for new needs and ideas for shared resources,” says Professor Stephanie Reich. The physicist from Freie Universität Berlin is the spokesperson for the “Steering Committee,” which also includes Professor Roland Meyer from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Professor Sebastian Möller from Technische Universität Berlin, and Professor Christian Hagemeier from Charité.

“I find sharing resources with researchers outside my discipline especially exciting.” Stephanie Reich

The physicist considers the idea of a research environment accessible to and used by all to be a major asset of the BUA. “If we succeed in making our scientific infrastructure widely usable, Berlin will become a much more interesting research hub.” For her, sharing resources has long been a practice in everyday professional life. “In addition to my university's infrastructure, I'm constantly using that of other institutions. That's because to produce new materials, we need a wide range of characterization methods that my lab doesn't even have.” She has therefore made the equipment and techniques of her research group available to others. “I find sharing resources with researchers outside my discipline especially exciting. For example, this is how I work with groups in biochemistry on better imaging techniques. These are research ideas I never would have thought of without the shared equipment.”

The participation survey will be conducted in English. “For this purpose, we use a participation platform where we ask general questions about the integrated research environment,” explains Dominika Dolzycka. For example:

  • Do you personally find sharing research infrastructure useful?
  • Would you be willing to share the tools you use?
  • What would have to change for you to be willing to share them?

The questions are about equipment and services, as well as research data management and open access.

The online platform functions like a large bulletin board: All responses will be visible to anyone who visits. Respondents may participate under their real name or under a pseudonym. “If you leave us your contact information, we'll contact you at the end to let you know how your responses went into the cumulative evaluation,” says Dominika Dolzycka.

“I believe that by sharing resources across different disciplines, entirely new methods will develop.” Stephanie Reich

For analysis, language algorithms will evaluate the responses, bundle them by topic, and identify focal points. After this preliminary evaluation, the Steering Committee staff moves on. They will compress the findings of the participation and use them to develop proposals for action and projects.

According to Stephanie Reich, everyone who participates in the survey will benefit. “Because the variety of scientific tools and methods will increase for everyone. And I also believe that by sharing resources across different disciplines, entirely new methods will develop.”

In the long term, the aim is to further develop the research environment so that the research infrastructure is accessible not only to the partners of the excellence alliance, but also to the entire Berlin hub of research.

The participation survey is starting step by step in the Excellence Alliance. Initially, researchers at Freie Universität Berlin and Technische Universität Berlin will be asked to participate, at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin from November 1, 2021 on. At Charité, the survey will start at a later date. The Steering Committee is looking forward to lively participation and is eager to hear ideas and requests. The platform can be found at www.mitdenken.berlin-university-alliance.de. Let's go!