The Population Imaging Infrastructure consists of dedicated equipment and technical personnel. While these can easily be integrated in the existing infrastructure of the UMCs, the physical core of the population imaging units needs to have state-of-the-art imaging modalities uniquely dedicated to population research. Most imaging equipment currently available is used full-time for patient care, leaving little time for research imaging, and is usually fully integrated in a hospital environment. The uniform image archiving and analysis infrastructure will cross-link the individual population imaging studies. It will focus on the requirements for common data acquisition, storage, exchange, and analysis. The Netherlands Forum for Biomedical Imaging (NFBI) will play a central role with
respect to the image analysis part of the infrastructure; however, dedicated hardware and software infrastructure is required to address these challenges. Finally, an initiative such as the Population Imaging Infrastructure demands that standardized procedures are created and followed, as the added value resulting from a concerted effort in population imaging comes mainly from the possibility to analyze composite data from different sites and/or different time points as well as from the availability of common analysis tools and methods.
The key to success is the efficient management of coordinated activities between the participants whilst allowing local management the freedom to continue their proven research strategies. The infrastructure per center will therefore differ depending on the nature of the population imaging studies to be performed, and it can comprise different combinations of imaging modalities. The strategic infrastructure agenda is strongly coupled to the strategic research goals of the leading population studies in the Netherlands. Establishing a functional, central e-science infrastructure as well as the appropriate governance structures for communal, standardized acquisition of population imaging data will cement the position of the Netherlands as the future leader of European population imaging research. Combination and exchange of data, together with the expansion of the number of facilities over the years will add to the leadership position of the Netherlands in both population studies and medical imaging.
Over a period of 15 years (2011-2025), the Population Imaging Infrastructure in the Netherlands will need a substantial capital investment. This investment is needed to cover the costs of equipment, as well as the costs of establishing a dedicated infrastructure for handling and storage of large image datasets, for data processing based on GRID technology, and related IT activities. The requested investment also includes technical personnel and maintenance costs throughout the project. Additional operating costs and the costs of scientific personnel will be covered by the participants from their direct internal funding and from externally subsidized projects.
Conclusion: The objective is for the Netherlands to host the European Population Imaging Infrastructure (EPI2) within Euro-BioImaging, for which we are in an excellent position. To strengthen this position, the Netherlands needs to create new or expand existing research facilities for population imaging with dedicated, state-of-the-art imaging units, data handling, and processing capacity.
Research based on population imaging studies will lead directly to improvements in disease prevention and treatment. There will be important economic impacts in terms of reducing the need for healthcare resources and increasing productivity through a healthier workforce. Such benefits more than justify the investment that will be required to establish and maintain the pan-European Population Imaging Infrastructure EPI2 in the Netherlands.