How (not) to design and implement a large-scale, interdisciplinary research infrastructure

Kaufmann, David; Kuenzler, Johanna; Sager, Fritz (2020). How (not) to design and implement a large-scale, interdisciplinary research infrastructure. Science and public policy, 47(6), pp. 818-828. Oxford University Press 10.1093/scipol/scaa042

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Research is increasingly carried out in large-scale, interdisciplinary research programs that aim to tackle complex, multidimensional, and future-oriented challenges. We explore the case of the Swiss Initiative in Systems Biology (, the largest ever Swiss research program, and more specifically the partial failure of the program’s IT-project SyBIT. Apart from providing IT and data science support, SyBIT aimed to establish a common data repository. The establishment of this common data repository failed. Based on an interdisciplinary analytical framework, we propose that five explanatory factors account for this failure: a lack of demand from researchers, technological complexity of heterogeneous data formats, absence of governance decisions in favor of the data repository, interpersonal problems, and political difficulties. We conclude that for large-scale research infrastructure, the policy design is crucial for success, given that it can result in positive or negative after effects, such as user resistance versus acceptance and technological complexity versus coherence.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


11 Centers of Competence > KPM Center for Public Management

UniBE Contributor:

Künzler, Johanna and Sager, Fritz


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 350 Public administration & military science




Oxford University Press




Fritz Sager

Date Deposited:

04 Feb 2021 16:47

Last Modified:

02 May 2021 03:01

Publisher DOI:





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