Policy for project selection
NeIC Policy for project selection
Approved by the NeIC Board April 17th, 2020
Purpose of the policy document
NeIC renewed its process for choosing the collaboration development projects in 2019. Currently the processing of NeIC development project proposals contains three phases that are executed separately:
- Assessment of quality and significance of the project by the External Review Committee
- Assessment of relevance to national strategies by the National e-Infrastructure Providers
- Assessment of Nordic Added Value and the alignment with NeIC strategy by the NeIC Director
The assessment by the External Review Committee is facilitated by the NeIC administration and the detailed process is defined when the themes and number of proposals is known for each call. The assessment by the National e-Infrastructure Providers may include information exchange between the Providers and recommendations to merge projects or add partners to projects. In the Assessment of Nordic Added Value and the alignment with NeIC strategy the NeIC Director may use advice from the NeIC Administration.
The NeIC Director is responsible for providing a summary of the assessments to the NeIC Board as a preparation material when the Board makes its decision on which NeIC project it wants to support. The NeIC cost-benefit assessment summarises the three separate assessments and assesses the value of the identified benefits in comparison to costs.
This policy document describes the general benefit objects that NeIC projects should address. The list should be modified and complemented with project-specific benefits when the business case document is formulated for the accepted project in its preparation phase as part of the benefit realisation management1.
The main general expected benefit of NeIC projects is NeIC projects contribute to better quality of research or productivity of researchers by developing and deploying e-infrastructure services.2
This is in line with the general acknowledgement that scientific excellence is the main driver for research infrastructure development.3 This is also addressed in the mantra of NeIC strategy for 2020–2025, which is Digital Infrastructure for Nordic Research Excellence. The general benefit objects are further detailed in the next chapter, Framework.
The basic idea of developing a cost-benefit analysis is to determine whether the benefits exceed the costs.4 In traditional business, this is often done by identifying money, time and quality benefits and valuating these in monetary terms. The sum of benefits is then compared to the sum of costs. However, in the case of NeIC this is not directly feasible. As a public-spending project NeIC project does not necessarily have to create as much monetary value as possible, as long as the use of funding is justified.5
For research (infrastructure) projects the benefits may be complicated and often unnecessary to valuate in monetary terms, because there are multiple ways in which the research can create value6. For costs the monetary value can be estimated and is relevant. For benefits a reliable estimation of monetary value, especially when performed ex-ante, would be more complex, less accurate and often unnecessary, especially when the purpose is to identify the project that would be most potential in providing benefit to Nordic researchers and the strategic partners of NeIC.
NeIC’s authority and accountability to services developed in the project ends after the completion of the project. Therefore, one aspect in the NeIC cost-benefit assessment is to assess the probability that some group will take over and operate the developed services. Also, when developing a traditional business case, the analysis is of the benefits to the company itself, whereas in the case of NeIC the beneficiary is not NeIC as an organisation but
- researchers who use the services developed in the project, and
- national providers who are strategically important stakeholders to NeIC projects.
Last but not least, in starting a new project it is important to also assess the anticipated change with regards to the counterfact.
Estimating the benefits
Table 1 presents the general benefit objects that are assessed prior to decision making, their connection to the NeIC strategy, ways to measure it and who is responsible for the assessment.
Table 1. Assessing the benefits of NeIC project proposals.
|General benefit object||Link to NeIC strategy||Measure||Responsible actor|
|Enable excellence in research||Mantra||Grade given by the external review committee||External Review Committee|
|Provide value to strategic partners||Beneficial collaborations||National priorities||National e-Infrastructure providers|
|Add value in the Nordics beyond national capabilities||Nordic Influence||Nordic countries involved||Proposers|
|Estimate of the increase in the number of users or quality of the service||Proposers|
|Assessment of change wrt. counterfact||NeIC Director|
|Potential for longer-term viability (both for the project group and the services)||NeIC Director|
|Potential for contributing to society, ethics and/or sustainability*||NeIC Director|
|Increase competence||Motivated People||Potential to increase competences either by training or by working together||NeIC Director|
* If two proposals would be equal based on other measures, the one that would potentially contribute to ethics/society/sustainability is prioritised.
In addition to assessing the potential benefits of a project, it should be expected that the project can deliver what it proposes. The topics to be assessed regarding this are provided in Table 2.
Table 2. Ex-ante assessment of the execution of a project.
|Topics to be assessed||Link to NeIC strategy||Measure||Responsible actor|
|Quality and feasibility||Effective processes||Potential for the project team to execute the project||NeIC Director|
|Strength of the consortium||Beneficial collaborations||For current NeIC project consortia: (NeIC internal) assessment of the current project partners
For new NeIC project consortia: assessment of the project consortia based on the proposal
Estimating the costs
The costs of a project include direct costs for NeIC and estimated administrative costs for NeIC. These are described in Table 3.
Table 3. Estimated costs of a project.
|Cost items||Detailed cost items||Measure||Responsible actor|
|Direct project costs||Personnel||Proposed budget||Proposers|
|Travel and meetings||Proposed budget||Proposers|
|Administrative costs||Administrative coordinator’s work time||Estimate based on current project portfolio||NeIC Director|
|Project owner’s work time||Estimate based on current project portfolio||NeIC Director|
Making the decision
The NeIC Director makes a proposal to the NeIC Board regarding which project(s) to support. In the proposal NeIC Director summarises the assessment made within the framework described, considers the NeIC project portfolio and NeIC budget alignment. The Board takes the final decision whether they accept or reject the Director’s proposal.
2 Here training is also considered as a service.
3 Sustainable European Research Infrastructures – A call for action, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (European Commission), Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017. doi:10.2777/76269
4 See for example Tieto PPS.
5 The approach described in this policy document was inspired by, although not directly developed from, the Five Case Model introduced in Guide to developing better the project business case, HM Treasury, 2018.
6 Luke Georghiou, Value of Research - Policy Paper by the Research, Innovation, and Science Policy Experts - RISE paper, European Commission, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2015. DOI10.2777/732192