In late July 2011, David Willetts, the UK’s Minister for Universities and Science, invited academics, technologists, hardware and software suppliers and experts from the Research Councils to discuss the establishment of an e-infrastructure roadmap for the UK. Following on that, a report was written exploring these issues, a significant investment was made for a 10-year roadmap, and a leadership council was assembled (of which I’m a member) to advise the government on how best to spend this investment for the maximum public good.

The funds allocated to this project come from the hard infrastructure budget for the UK (think roads, tolls, etc.), dedicated in this programme to “e-infrastructure” – digital infrastructure to help business, academia, industry, and the research enterprise. This includes funding and maintenance of a plethora of things: networks, computation, software, skills training, technologies. Together with other representatives from industry, academe, funding bodies and officials, we will be advising the government on how best to use these funds over the next 10 years to help encourage data science, technological development, and emerging business.

Digital Science sits as an industry representative on this council, as a voice for the communities we work with and care about: the start-up community, researchers looking to embrace digital technologies or spin-out businesses of their own, and small business. Following the first meeting of the leadership council (ELC) this past March, it became apparent that those communities were not as well represented in the discussion as they could be – their needs not mapped to what is, in essence, public money to foster and further emerging business, innovation, and research in the UK. 

I’ve been tasked with leading a working group to explore the needs of these groups to help inform the broader council on how e-infrastructure affects them, and to gauge their awareness on existing programs and infrastructures that although publicly funded and designed for their use, may be under-utilised. 

To do this, we have released as of today a short survey called “The future of UK’s digital infrastructure”. It will be live for the next two weeks, closing on 13 June, from which we’ll distill the results into a report to present to the larger council in July. All of the results will be made publicly available under a Creative Commons license.

Do join me in spreading the word about this survey, accessible at the following address:  This is your chance to directly influence not only how this funding is divvied up, but also affect how the UK views data-intensive science, business, and digital technologies for years to come. 

(Update: The deadline for the survey has been extended to 22 June 2012.)