Countless scientific breakthroughs depend on the availability of advanced research facilities. Such facilities tend to be expensive and take a long time to build. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences asked researchers to describe ‘dream’ facilities that they believe could produce scientific breakthroughs in the space of a decade or more. Today, the Academy is announcing the 13 facilities that have its backing.
The Academy Agenda for Large-scale Research Facilities is meant to inspire young Dutch researchers to develop plans for research facilities operating at the forefront of knowledge, and to work together on turning those plans into actual proposals. The Agenda contains thirteen proposals for facilities that researchers would like to see up and running in around 2025 or thereafter.
From dream to reality
The Academy Agenda is a collection of ‘dream facilities’ – proposals that could end up on the national or European roadmap for large-scale research facilities in a few years’ time. The Agenda therefore complements the National Roadmap that the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) will be publishing later this year. The National Roadmap describes facilities that are already at an advanced stage of planning and may soon become reality.
Investing in the future
Large-scale research facilities cost a lot of money. That much was recently made clear in the Knowledge Coalition’s Investment Agenda, the follow-up to the Dutch National Research Agenda. The Academy has advised the Dutch government to increase the budget for research facilities and to also provide early-phase support for the development of key facilities. It has further advised researchers to cooperate in their respective areas of science on prioritising prospective large-scale research facilities.
Thirteen plus three projects
The publication setting out the Academy's Agenda provides succinct descriptions of the 13 selected research facilities and three honourable mentions. A detailed description of the proposals (in Dutch) can be found on the Academy's website. The selected facilities cut across the entire scientific spectrum. A few randomly chosen examples follow:
- DESIDERIA, to analyse unparalleled quantities of text for linguistic and historical research. This facility will make it possible to study changes in the meaning of such complex concepts as war, law and democracy.
- The Ruisdael Observatory, which will support climate research by providing highly detailed images of the atmosphere above the Netherlands.
- FEL-NL, a free-electron laser (i.e. a laser that covers a wide range of wavelengths) for filming the nano-world. Nanoscale research is instrumental to the development of efficient energy conversion methods, for example.
Download or order the Academy Agenda for Large-scale Research Facilities [KNAW-Agenda grootschalige onderzoeksfaciliteiten]. The Agenda is in Dutch with an English summary. The English summary can be downloaded separately.