Preceding developments 

Research Data Netherlands (RDNL) was established in 2013 by Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) and 3TU.Datacentrum (currently 4TU.ResearchData) based on a Letter of Intent. Its aim was to better coordinate the range of data archiving services and jointly serve a broader field of disciplines than the individual parties were able to. In 2014, SURFsara joined the partnership. 

In those years, universities and umbrella organizations such as the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) were formulating their data policies, and starting to implement them through institutions like the university libraries. RDNL distinguished between the universities’ front-office functions and the back-office services on which particularly the RDNL partners could focus. 

When the Dutch National Coordination Point for Research Data Management (LCRDM) was launched in 2015, RDNL believed that it would lead to improved coordination of supply and demand of data services. RDNL itself limited its activities to the now successful Essentials 4 Data Support course and the Dutch Data Prize. Although the LCRDM has led to a better exchange of knowledge about various aspects of research data management (RDM), it has nevertheless proved to be less suitable for better organizing the range of services. 

In the meantime, the National Open Science Platform (NPOS) was established in 2017. It, too, deals with the issue of how to improve the Dutch data infrastructure in the context of Open Science. That is why it is useful for RDNL itself to now redefine the best role it can play. 


The mission of Research Data Netherlands (RDNL) is to promote sustainable access to and responsible reuse of scientific research data in all stages of research. 

To this end, RDNL exchanges knowledge and provides services in the field of data management and long-term data preservation . In the near future, RDNL also intends to offer services in the field of software sustainability. 

Added value 
RDNL is made up of organizations that primarily perform back-office and technical basic infrastructure functions and comply with the CoreTrustSeal guidelines. The coalition is open to other organizations who are committed to data stewardship and meet these requirements, or who are willing to comply within a set period. 

The added value of RDNL is that the partner organizations can jointly serve a wider area than each of them would be able to on their own. The coalition partners are complementary in various respects, both through the fields they serve, the services they offer, and the variety of research data types they are experts in and make available. The collaboration offers a practical elaboration of the collaborative data infrastructure model from the Riding the Wave report of 20101. RDNL is taking concrete steps towards a federated data infrastructure in the Netherlands. 

RDNL is involved in all stages of the data life cycle through the deployment of manpower (peopleware), software and standards, although the focus is on the later stages of the cycle through the front-office/back-office construction. 

In addition, there is technological collaboration, for example in the field of storage. By using each other's services and competences, overlap is prevented and transparency for potential users is increased. Future collaboration on basic infrastructure will also bring benefits in terms of data findability, integration and exchange of data, as well as financial gain based on economies of scale. 

By working together on our mission, we will ensure that many stakeholders, including society at large, can store, find and reuse research data. 

RDNL focuses primarily on research facilitators by supporting them in their work for researchers, data managers, universities and institutes. We do this using the front-office/back-office structure that has been chosen as the implementation mechanism of the federated data infrastructure in the Netherlands (see Some key concepts). 

National and international sponsors, such as KNAW, NWO and the European Commission, are also driving forces since they strongly promote open access and responsible data management for the research they are funding. 

Next to the LCRDM, the NPOS, NWO and the Coordinating SURF Contacts (CSC) also act as advisory bodies and sources of information for RDNL, with RDNL acting as the implementing body for new ideas and innovations. 


1. Provide transparent and relevant services in the field of data management

  • Offer coherent, interoperable and federated services with a clear division of roles and coordination between the RDNL partners, resulting in a joint portfolio of data management products and services.
  • Link the various research institutions: universities, NWO and KNAW institutes, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), etc.
  • Be the point of contact for umbrella organizations (e.g. LCRDM, NPOS) and funders in the field of data stewardship and data management. 

2. Provide a data management training programme

  • Offer training courses to both data facilitators and other stakeholders.
  • Develop training courses on data management.
  • Organize workshops or master classes on various topics, such as legal aspects of data, data policies, and infrastructures for data and storage. 

3. Increase awareness of the importance of data management

  • Coordinate, make available and implement data curation policies and best practices for data management, long-term archiving and reuse of data.
  • In collaboration with other stakeholders, develop and adopt FAIR data principles2 and data/metadata standards for various domains.
  • Organize and award the Dutch Data Prize. 

When will RDNL be successful? 

RDNL will be a success if the following conditions are met. 

1. Provide transparent and relevant services in the field of data management

  • Services and expertise are offered in a transparent and coordinated manner through the products and services catalogue during the entire data life cycle. 
  • The services respond to (inter)national developments in data management and data stewardship. 
  • RDNL is considered an advisory and implementation body for sustainable data management by stakeholders. 

2. Provide a data management training programme 

  • Training in the field of data management is made available through RDNL and/or its individual partners. 
  • Workshops and master classes are being organized and/or are available. 

3. Increase awareness of the importance of data management 

  • The importance of data management, long-term archiving and reuse of data is an integral part of research culture. 
  • The FAIR data principles have been integrated into the services as fully as possible.
  • The Dutch Data Prize is a household name in the Dutch research community. 


RDNL is lead by a chairperson. This role rotates among the coalition partners every two years. The chairperson is responsible for the RDNL administration and facilitates all agreements and logistics. Preferably, the leadership is kept by the same coalition partner at all levels (steering committee, working group and project group), so that progress can easily be monitored. The chairperson is responsible for the progress of agreements made and for internal communications. The chairperson is not RDNL’s external representative, this is a role performed by the steering group as a whole. RDNL has two structural levels of consultation: the steering committee and the working groups. In addition, temporary project groups can be set up. 

Steering committee 
The steering committee meets once every quarter. In principle, each partner has one delegate on the steering committee. The chair of the steering group is the chairperson of RDNL. The annual budget is determined in the Q2 or Q3 meeting of the previous year. The annual financial report is discussed in Q1. 

Working groups 
There are two working groups: Communication and Training. In principle, each partner is represented by no more than one member in the working groups. The working groups submit an account of their work to the steering committee prior to the steering committee meeting. The working groups meet according to their own schedule. 

Project groups 
A project group can be set up for temporary joint activities. Examples are the organization of the Dutch Data Prize and the services catalogue. 

Some key concepts 

Data stewardship is the management and supervision of the research data of an organization, scientific domain or community, which ensures that they have easy and 6 Vision and organization of Research Data Netherlands consistent access to it. A data steward will ensure the accuracy, completeness, integrity and quality of the data. 

Front-office/back-office model:At the initiative of RDNL, a federated data infrastructure is developing in the Netherlands, which includes services, roles and responsibilities for various parties. RDNL has elaborated this reference model into four layers. 

In this model, the Common Data Services layer from the EU framework is split.  Its foundation is a basic technical infrastructure which, among other things, provides for data storage and back-up facilities. Above it there is a layer of back-office data services, which offers facilities and support for long-term archiving and accessibility of data. One level higher we have the front-office services, which provide first-line contacts with the top layer of researchers: supporting, advising and training researchers and students in responsible data management. The front offices can rely on expertise from the back-office. 

Long-term archiving is the preservation of research data and their usability for the longer term (> 10 years). 

Research data includes data sets (such as databases, spreadsheets, text, images, audio, video, geodata and multimedia), research information (information about research, research institutes and researchers) and electronic publications (including preprints and reports, contained in repositories). 


How Europe can gain from the rising tide of scientific data. Final report of the High Level Expert Group on Scientific Data. A submission to the European Commission. October 2010  

Wilkinson, M. D. et al. The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Sci. Data 3:160018 (2016).