Virtual Research Environments (VREs)

A Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is a temporary compute environment that enables researchers to work interactively and remotely on research. A VRE contains tools and data that scientists need for their research. On this page you will find more information on the benefits of a VRE and how to get started. 

A VRE is: 

  • Flexible and easy to use. You can configure, start, pause and end the VRE yourself. The VRE supports software tools that you are already familiar with (e.g. RStudio, Jupyter, Matlab, GIS). You can select them from a catalogue and get access via your web browser.
  • Collaborative. You can invite colleagues or researchers from other institutes and universities to join your VRE and control who has access to your data and tools.
  • Secure. Secure ANalysis Environment (SANE) VREs are available upon request for working with sensitive data.
  • Powerful. You can configure your VRE with compute power (incl. GPU), memory and storage that are multiple times larger and faster than your laptop. You can start and stop on demand, which saves time on installation and deployment. It also saves costs when your VRE environment is not used.

Who can use the VRE?

Researchers doing research on behalf of Utrecht University are eligible. Other members of your collaboration may join your VRE, or help you to set it up: support staff, private partners, external or foreign researchers, etc.

The VRE is most beneficial for researchers that need a temporary, cost-effective solution for processing and analysing their data. If you do not want to invest time in permanent or advanced solutions, it is worth looking into a VRE. 

Utrecht University provides VREs based on SURF Research Cloud, which is a good alternative for commercial cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. 

How to get started

Contact RDM Support for an intake or advice. We will discuss the needs of your research and consult you on:

  • The appropriate solution. RDM Support will help you determine which solution will meet the requirements of your research. 
  • The required configuration. RDM Support will discuss the software and configuration that your research needs and how we can help you make your own software or scripts available.
  • Other requirements. RDM Support can consult on related needs, such as research data management, to facilitate a complete and integral solution for your research.
  • Funding arrangements. The VRE costs are covered on a pay-per-use basis. If you do not have a budget available, RDM Support can help you apply for “SURFsara credits” to get you started for a limited time. We can also help you with applying for more credits via SURF and NWO.

Depending on your needs you may be able to start using your VRE the same day.