Historic interest: DISC Work packages running projects together

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As a virtual organization that forms a collaboration of existing institutes, DISC will be a lean organization. We will keep the organization of DISC light and simple as possible. DISC is a group of people who all work on data in the life sciences. We have described some rules on how the organization is put together from this loosely knit group.

All expertise in DISC is clustered in work packages (WP's) with each a single specialization. WP's can work on projects in the field of their expertise, alone or together with other work packages. The projects that are being worked on can be driven from the within the WP (these internal projects are also called "use cases"), or by any life-scientist outside of DISC that has a need for their expertise.

How are work packages organised?

DISC's tasks are organized as work packages (WP's): each WP scopes out its core expertise and defines a service it can offer to others. A work package may require the services of other WP's to accomplish its goals. WP goals can lie in basic science expertise (e.g. statistics), enabling technologies (e.g. genetic data analysis, proteomics data analysis), or higher level combination fields (e.g. translational medicine) or in the structure of the organisation (e.g. office and personnel functions, governance and organization, funding). The structure for each WP is basically the same: Each work package offers its expertise through a service window. The content driven work packages will effectively become active as task forces. The service window of the scientific task forces is open to the outside world (either nationally or internationally, depending on the aims of the specific work package). However, the service window of the organisational WP's is only open to people inside DISC. Together, the service windows form the true 'face' of DISC. Each service window is therefore serviced by a suitable representative of the work package who does not need to be the absolute expert in the field, but who knows the way around the organisation and has a high availability and excellent community building skills.

DISC is very Open: new WP's can be added at any moment. The only thing that is required is that partners join forces, make a plan to offer services in their field, and start working together on a use case. Each WP that starts inside DISC brings at least one use case, to show that there is a need for the expertise. WP's can also stop operating; this will happen when there is no more need for their expertise, e.g. when the technology they have supported has matured.

Each work package is a collaboration of the scientific thought leaders (PI's) in the field from Dutch academia and companies. Each PI can dedicate personnel to the work package. Each work package also has a half-time dedicated technical project leader (TPL) who does not have to be a subject expert, but who knows the right people in the organization. The TPL has as primary task to make the work package work efficiently, to make sure no project gets stuck. A TPL may function as the person running the service window of the work package.

The TPL's meet weekly in relevant clusters to align the collaborations between work packages. We use structured, efficient and effective ways to communicate. All-hands project meetings are conducted at fixed, appropriate intervals. Meetings are conducted virtually whenever possible to avoid the costs and loss of time involved in traveling. Meetings start on time, have a goal, have a clear agenda, and finish on time.

Work packages define their own meeting schedule, but they are encouraged to meet frequently to discuss how the work of the different experts in the group aligns: to prevent overlap and to fill voids.

The DISC organization will help to organize cross-cutting meetings of people from different work packages that share work methods. These meetings can focus on new technology that becomes available and offer a breeding place for collaborations. An example is formed by the already existing monthly programmers meetings that bring programmers together that often are working alone or in very small groups in their home institute.

DISC Projects

Projects in DISC are in principle time limited and have a defined goal with the involvement of one or more DISC work packages/task forces, sometimes temporarily enriched with external contributors and specifically users. Projects involving one work package/task force are lead by the technical project leader of that work package. If a project is executed as a collaboration between different task forces, the involved TPL's choose the project leader among themselves. All the people involved in a project have weekly one-on-one meetings with the project leader. These meetings are used to address especially issues that could hamper the continuous progress of the project. Use cases are projects that are brought in by the partners in a work package. They should target issues that are shared between different groups in the work package.

Projects, including use cases, are expected to bring their own funding. To DISC, if it is impossible to find funding, it is not worth doing. Project are not run following strict rules of traditional project management. Instead, the process that is followed is adapted to the specific needs of the project such that overhead is minimized. We follow the experience of Agile Project Management.

Funding

Work packages will not be centrally funded by DISC, instead WP projects are expected to bring in funding.

Funding for DISC as a whole is difficult to obtain in the current political and financial climate. However, as elaborated elsewhere, a structural component of each future data generating grant/project both in Industry and Academia could be a stable source of income for the DISC joint venture. Such funds will be routed to the relevant WP's according to the specific expertise needed in such projects. It is therefore crucial that DISC will work as a 'mentally co-owned' partnership without undue internal competition. This is one of the major challenges in terms of community building inside and around DISC.

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