How to manage research data?

Research data management and Open Data are big topics at Swiss universities.

Research data management and Open Data are topics in the digital world that are affecting universities. Keywords are reproducibility of results, reuse of research data as a new field of research and also “citizen science”, where interested laypersons can supplement or process research data and even derive new findings. Archiving of research data has also emerged as an important topic.

The funding programme SUC P-2, which will provide 45 million Swiss francs between 2013 and 2016, addresses service providers for research and education, IT services and libraries. The know-how of IT Services of ETH Zurich and the ETH-Bibliothek are providing a valuable contribution for “bundling of strengthscombining efforts” in this rapidly growing and cost-intensive area.

SUC P-2 programme

Within the scope of the SUC P-2 programme, the Scientific IT Services (ITS SIS) department of ETH IT Services is contributing two positions in the 10 million CHF Data Lifecycle Management project, which is being supported by eight institutions. The work of ITS SIS is focussing on the further development of their data management platform openBIS and to improve its availability for other universities.

Practical application

One specific example of what openBIS does and what ITS SIS is further developing in “SUC P-2” is the management and distribution of data from the “Quantitative Genomics Facility” in Basel (QGF). The QGF measures biological samples for several groups at ETH Zurich and the University of Basel. The results must be made available to the respective recipients. “For this purpose we operate two systems: one at ETH Zurich and one at the University of Basel,” said Bernd Rinn, Section Head Scientific IT Services. With openBIS, data that is relevant for the university is synchronised between the main ETH system and the second system at the University of Basel. “With regard to the biological samples, it really could be anything: cancer cells or bacteria to name just a few,” explained the section head. Although openBIS stands for ′open biology information system′, it is also suitable for managing a wide range of research data from other domains.

The goal of a second SUC-P2 project is to enhance the reuse of Swiss research data. The pilot plattform has been set up under the management of Henry Lütcke in the group of Thomas Wüst. The platform was developed in cooperation with the FORS, the SIB and the DhLab of the University of Basel. Over the coming years, it is planned that will be further developed into a metadata infrastructure for open research data. SUC P-2 promotes national services in the area of scientific information. This requires both service providers and consumers. It is therefore good news that ETH is establishing itself as a service provider via ITS SIS as well as the ETH-Bibliothek and also benefits from the resulting synergies.


  • Data Life-Cycle Management Project (ITS Blog)
  • Scientific IT Services supports ETH research (ITS Blog)
  • Scientific IT Services (ITS SIS)


Roland Dietlicher, Deputy Director of IT Services and SUC P-2 Programme Manager


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