On Friday, 29 april it was announced that ODISSEI, a collaboration between 34 organisations – including the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences at the University of Twente – has been awarded almost 10 million euros by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to improve the collection and analysis of data. Dr. Henk van der Kolk, closely involved in the UT’s initiative: “The investment will be used over the next five years to discover and develop better ways of handling complex data within the social sciences in the Netherlands.”
At the University of Twente’s Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences, for example, researchers will be working on secure ways to analyse large-scale data files without putting people’s privacy at risk. This initiative can encompass all kinds of data, from insurance companies to municipal authorities. Another aim will be to analyse how people make use of their devices and apps. To date, the vast databases involved in research of this type have posed too complex and difficult a challenge for scientists. The ODISSEI partnership has been established to bring analysis on this scale within the realms of possibility. This project enables researchers to find more effective ways to address the urgent social issues of our time.
Independent reviewers declared ODISSEI to be a “world first” and “a game changer” in the study of social change. In addition, they stated that ODISSEI places the Netherlands at the vanguard of computational social science and is an invaluable resource for a new generation of social scientists.
Scientific Director of ODISSEI, Pearl Dykstra said “it is clear to us all that we live in a highly unpredictable and complex world. To understand the uncertainties and interdependencies that exist, social scientists require access to linked data, advanced computing resources and analytical expertise. This needs to be done whilst also maintaining the highest security standards that protect and respect the sensitive and private nature of the data.”
ODISSEI is already working to better understand the impact of the corona virus in the Netherlands and how we are adapting to the rapidly changing world around us. This is done by collecting detailed data from thousands of households across the Netherlands, by linking data from a wide range of sources together, providing researchers with access to a secure supercomputer at SURFsara, and utilising the latest in analytical techniques. The data and insights generated by ODISSEI will help researchers and policy makers better understand and adapt to the virus.
The National Roadmap for Large-scale Research Infrastructures programme enables the construction or renovation of research facilities with an international appeal. In 2019-2020, seven projects were financed.
ODISSEI consists of 34 member organisations, that are faculties of social science, economics or business administration, KNAW and NWO institutes, public research organisations, and Statistics Netherlands (CBS). The host is Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Scientific Director of ODISSEI is Prof. dr. Pearl Dykstra (EUR-ESSB).