Historic interest: How to get there: Spinning up the DISC

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What is the time frame of DISC?

DISC is operational as a DTL project in its preparatory phase as of January 2012. The project is lead by a Coordination Team (CT). Members of the CT come from different founding partners and collaborate to scope and realise DISC as the 'data department of DTL'. It is anticipated that the preparatory phase will cover 2012 and the better part of 2013. DISC should be fully fleshed out by the end of 2013, and should have its start up funding as well as its sustainability plan in place by that time. It should be emphasized however, that the current 'standing' organisations founding DISC already collaborate on a multitude of specific supra-institutional or even supra-networked projects (such as for instance the TraIT project of CTMM in which several NGI centres also participate). Such complex projects will increasingly be 'stickered' DISC and in that sense DISC will be shaped and implemented in an 'agile' manner, answering the immediate needs of the running initiatives in the Netherlands and in ELIXIR. In other words, the scope and the organisational format (the 'box' so to speak) will be shaped around the content, and not the other way around.

How is DISC governed in the preparatory and building phase?

To develop the initial phases of DISC all of the founders together with other prospective participants and work package leaders are regularly coming together. Each participant in that group works on the development and set up of one or more of the work packages that are developed to ensure bottom up and user (questions) driven development of the DISC infrastructure and expertise. The people of this group have been captured in a picture during a meeting in April 2012.

In the start up phase of DISC, the action is taken by colleagues that 'take this on as part and parcel of their daily activities' because they see the value of DISC. However, they are not necessarily paid for their activities. However, all of them are mandated by their 'standing' organisation as a co-founder of DISC.

Within the group there is a group of people that have been mandated by the founders to spend significant time on the development of DISC. These form the Coordination Team.

How will DISC be built over the next two years ?

It was decided at the first DISC meeting in Lunteren that DISC will be built according to existing and emerging needs in the community (academic and private). As DISC is not something that is 'invented' but is naturally emerging as the logical next step in the evolution of the organisation of 'enabling technologies' in big data life science, it should be a bottom up, born-public private and organically growing expertise centre. The same holds true for the 'hard' infrastructure. Dedicated use cases and predicted use cases should drive the form and the size of the initiative and its investments in epxertise, software and hardware.

Therefore, it was decided to build DISC as a conglomerate of interconnected Work Packages (during its project phase).

To ensure the user driven focus of DISC, it was agreed that:

  1. Each Work Package that is considered for inclusion should have at least one use case (preferably more) of a clearly supra-institutional (and preferably interdisciplinary) nature.
  2. Each Work Package should have a PI level Work Package leader, either from Academia or industry with a strong preference for a tandem from day one (Note: WP's may start without this requirement as yet being fulfilled, but in that case a top priority is to find a counterpart WP leader.)
  3. Once a WP becomes operational as a Task Force within DISC it should appoint a Technical Project Leader (reference to the proven BioAssist model). This person will spend approximately half of his time on coordination activities for the expert community (for instance the organisation of site visits, scoping meetings, programmers meetings etc.) and should spend the other half on non-time critical activities in the core business of the WP expertise focus (for instance experimental design, genomics, programming, imaging etc.).

The WP structure is described in more detail elsewhere.

How is DISC governed once established?

It is anticipated that from the WP leaders, the future management team (MT) members of DISC will naturally emerge during the project phase. The current overall coordinator, Barend Mons has indicated that he will be committed to the set up phase of DISC but he will not be available as candidate director once the organisation is up and running. It is therefore of the utmost importance for DISC that the prospective members of the MT will be trained on the job in the first two years of the project.

At some point (for instance to form a formal node in ELIXIR) DISC may need to become its own legal entity or reside under DTL for such formalities. In any case, DISC will be a crucially important 'department' of DTL and will require its own highly skilled and dedicated management team, even if DISC completely resides under the DTL management.

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