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HeFDI – Hessian Research Data Infrastructures

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Concern and subject matter
Nationwide and international networking
Results (milestones and epics)

Concern and Subject Matter of the HeFDI Federal State Initiative: Digital Research Data

Many research areas increasingly rely on digital research data. The amount of digital data as well as the means of analysing this data are constantly growing. As its value increases, the gained data must be stored responsibly in all phases of the data life cycle, plus made accessible and reproducible – all in line with good scientific practice.

In order to do justice to this digital change at universities, various infrastructures and services are needed to support researchers in managing their digital research data. For this reason, headed by Philipps-Universität Marburg, eleven Hessian universities interoperate to establish research data infrastructures.

Said infrastructure is to initiate and coordinate the organisational and technological processes needed to anchor research data management at the participating universities. This includes technological offerings, e.g., in terms of a repository, as well as support and services.

 Concretely, the following objectives have been accomplished between 2016 and 2020:

  • policies for managing research data have been established at the participating Hessian universities
  • all partner universities have developed quality-assured trainings and support services
  • HeFDI has advised all partner universities on data strategies and data management plans for third-party funding proposals
  • all partner universities provide researchers with information on legal issues (licences, data privacy)
  • the HeFDI universities have developed a joint solution for multidisciplinary repositories and are implementing it
  • the HeFDI universities have developed a joint solution for the Research Data Management Organiser (RDMO) service
  • researchers are advised on actively used data, i.e. on tools, versioning and licensing;
  • the HeFDI universities have co-developed a concept on how to crosslink state initiatives with National Research Data Infrastructure

Nationwide and International Networking

The HeFDI universities are active in various nationwide networks for research data management, both through the office and through the local service points: HeFDI participates in the Research Data Alliance (RDA), in the DINI/nestor-AG Forschungsdaten (English: Research Data) and supports the establishment of NFDI consortia. HeFDI is also connected to the other state initiatives and maintains regular contact with them. In addition, there is bilateral contact between locations with close exchange and/or cooperation in research data management. Furthermore, there is an intensive exchange of experience and knowledge transfer on research data management via networks such as TU9. HeFDI is part of the nationwide portal HeFDI also supports the service catalogue for research data, which is currently being set up.

Results (Milestones and Epics)

HeFDI started in 2016 as a joint initiative of the Hessian universities, building on a pilot project and numerous local initiatives. Since then, the state initiative has been able to record numerous successes and build up a broad offer for researchers.

  • Between 2014 and 2018, ten of the HeFDI universities adopted policies on research data management, which emphasise the importance of research data as part of the academic life. With these policies, the HeFDI universities provide clear orientation for their members and express their commitment to the implementation of responsible and sustainable research data management.
  • All universities have set up local service points for research data, in which research data experts, libraries, research institutions and computer centres jointly offer advice, expertise, training and support. HeFDI doesn’t rely only on the cooperation among the project partners, but also on embedding research data management at the individual universities and linking them with existing infrastructure facilities.
  • All participating universities offer needs-oriented training for students, doctoral candidates and researchers on relevant topics in research data management. In addition to numerous general trainings, subject-specific training sessions are also organised in close consultation with the researchers. In the area of training and data literacy, the HeFDI universities were also able to achieve some remarkable successes by attracting funding and implementing the collaborative FOKUS project. In addition, two out of five top prizes in the nationwide competition “Wissenschaft im Digitalen Wandel” (English: Science in digital change) were awarded to HeFDI universities (TRUST and RDM in mechanical engineering).
  • One of the most important services in HeFDI is the comprehensive advisory service for scientists. This applies to advice on research data management for third-party funding applications, as well as for ongoing research projects in active data management. There is a remarkably high demand: in 2019, over 300 consultations were conducted at the collaborative universities.
  • Since 2019, three of the participating universities offer institutional research data repositories. In the operation of the repositories, the HeFDI participants rely on a division of labour: Philipps-Universität Marburg (UMR) and the Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUDa) host DSpace-based repositories and ensure technical operation and 3rd-level support. The Justus Liebig University is also setting up an institutional repository solution. Interested universities and memory institutions can have repositories operated by the cooperation of UMR and TUDa. This creates considerable synergies and cost savings. In addition, this joint repository solution gives all HeFDI universities the possibility of implementing a solution for storing and, if necessary, publishing research data at their own institution in a quick and easily accessible manner. They can thus easily comply with the new guidelines of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
  • HeFDI sees itself as a building block of a national research data infrastructure (NFDI). From the beginning, HeFDI has helped shape the debate on NFDI. In addition, HeFDI stakeholders have been actively involved in the establishment of various NFDI consortia and continue their work to ensure that both researchers at HeFDI universities and relevant infrastructure providers engage in consortia that are suitable for the subject matter, whether as co-applicants, as participants or as supporters from the community.
  • The local service points for research data provide basic information on legal issues relating to research data as part of their advisory services. Furthermore, they cooperate closely with the local legal departments and data protection officers in order to be able to provide researchers at the HeFDI universities with direct support on legal issues as straightforward as possible. This cooperation has resulted, for example, in a model data protection concept for research projects, which makes it much easier for researchers to manage their research data. This field of work also shows how much synergy and efficiency can be achieved if there is a strong basis of good cooperation between the participants and bundling of expertise.
  • Data management plans are essential for working with research data. To support members of the HeFDI universities, the HeFDI universities have found an efficient and cooperative solution for the supporting tool Research Data Management Organiser (RDMO): The Technical University of Darmstadt hosts RDMO for clients and already offers this service for five HeFDI universities; three further cooperation agreements with HeFDI universities are under preparation. TU Darmstadt also offers this service for RWTH Aachen University and within the framework of the NFDI. Two other HeFDI universities maintain their own instances. All participants are in close exchange and support each other.
  • In the area of active data management, the HeFDI members have reviewed existing services and, taking into account scientists’ demands, identified gaps for which services are to be developed jointly in the coming years. In addition, several collaborative research centres were supported in acquiring their own information infrastructure projects for active data management.
  • In 2018, the HeFDI universities jointly developed an overall concept for the current steadying phase, which was positively acknowledged by the DFG's Scientific Libraries and Infrastructures Committee. This makes it the second collaborative project after High-Performance Computing, which has been evaluated positively.


HeFDI is led by a steering group. The responsible vice-presidents of the partner universities and the local project coordinators are part of the steering group. The steering group decides on milestones or epics and is regularly informed about the activities (features). Each university has one vote.

Overall management: Prof Dr Thomas Nauss, President of Philipps-Universität Marburg

Overall coordination: Dr Ortrun Brand, HeFDI office at the Service Centre for Digitally Supported Research at Philipps-Universität Marburg,


Eleven Hessian universities are HeFDI partner universities.

Each service point offers a locally adapted portfolio of advice, training, needs assessment and adapted infrastructure. Close cooperation and exchange between the research data officers create synergy effects, for example in the provision of federated services or shared expertise in consultations. The service units can thus access a common pool of knowledge and benefit from the preliminary work of other units.

The following universities work together as partners in Hessian Research Data Infrastructures (HeFDI):

HeFDI is implemented by service centres for research data and corresponding research data experts at all partner universities. University libraries and university computer centres at the locations are central cooperation partners in HeFDI. Most of the research departments of the university administrations are also involved. HeFDI is part of an overall strategy of Hesse's higher education institutions to build services that meet and support the digital transformation. It is funded through the Budget for Innovation and Structural Development of the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts with € 3.4 million. The term amounts to almost 5 years (May 2016 to December 2020); the follow-up application is under preparation.

Each service unit offers a locally tailored portfolio of consulting, training, software and infrastructure. Close cooperation and exchange between the research data officers create synergy effects, for example by providing federated services or shared expertise in consultations. The service units can thus access a common pool of knowledge and benefit from the preliminary work of other units.

Cooperation Partners