Towards a sustainable research & education infrastructure for NZ

NZ needs a specialist research and education network but what does it look like and how should it be funded?

Blog by Nicole Ferguson, CEO of REANNZ

Our stakeholders all agree that New Zealand needs a specialist research and education network to enable scientists, researchers, and innovators to be part of cutting-edge projects and collaborations across New Zealand and around the world. But what does it look like? And how should it be funded?

REANNZ is the Crown-owned company that runs the National Research and Education Network (NREN).  Our role is to deliver the specialist high-speed, high-performance research network, products and services to enable New Zealand’s researchers to share and access data-intensive research nationally and globally. Working with the global network of 120+ NRENs we facilitate international access and protocols and manage services including eduroam on behalf of New Zealand.

The need for this platform was confirmed in a series of workshops with REANNZ members following a reduction to our Crown Funding in August last year.   

The workshops also identified some challenges for us in how we meet needs and provide a quality network in a small country that is also sustainable, which we’re addressing.

To ensure our model is fit for future, we are reviewing our service structure and pricing model.  This will provide members with more flexibility and choice to ensure their access to the research and education network aligns with the needs of their institution. This ranges from new options to increase research connectivity speeds for institutions to over 100Gbps, to more options for less data-intensive institutions to choose the level of services that are fit for them.

This work has already begun, with representatives from across our membership ie universities, institutes of technology/ polytechnics and crown research institutes - involved in the first workshop on the new models in early July. Following consultation with all members later this year, it’s expected the new model will be in place for 1 January 2019.

We welcome the MBIE-led review currently underway, initiated by the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation.  It will consider the future needs of the research and education system when it comes to research connectivity, and options available to ensure the long-term success of the research and education sector in the use of and access to the platform.

All this has coincided with our two-yearly membership renewal process. In recognition of the significant work that is underway, and likely to result in changes to our business model, we offered members a six-month membership contract extension until the end of this year. 

The vast majority of our membership took up the offer to retain membership and full services, including our suite of research and education services, specialist high-performance global connectivity services, eduroam and private services for the six-month period while these reviews are completed, and the new models put in place. Unfortunately, a small number of members were not in a position to make that commitment and have withdrawn from membership. 

While we are disappointed that not all members are able to be involved as we design the model to be fit for the future, we remain committed to ensuring the new model will ensure the broadest participation and access to this essential research and education platform.

We continue open dialogue with all our stakeholders as we strive to ensure the future needs of the research and education sector are met, and the exciting growth New Zealand is experiencing in data-intensive science across all fields is sustained. 

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