• Subscribe

A coordinated approach for science in Europe

Find out more on the Horizon 2020 homepage, here. Image courtesy Sébastien Bertrand, Flickr.

Horizon 2020, ththe European Commission's next funding cycle, is set to launch in January, 2014. That's just over six months away. iSGTW has reported previously on what this means, not only for the e-infrastructure projects that underpin international, collaborative computational science projects in Europe, but also for the science projects and the scientists who use them. However, perhaps the most important watchword in tough economic times is 'coordination': ensuring that funding is used wisely, minimizing overlap between projects, and sharing facilities and services wherever commonalities can be found.

Global connectivity between researchers themselves and superfast connections between existing centers of excellence will, arguably, have a more important role to play than ever. Building brand new research institutes is less justifiable when funding is uncertain, especially when centers of excellence already exist. The goal of making every European researcher digital, and the changing model of how research is carried out, makes these networks an integral part of the fabric of the European Research Area.

Identifying synergies in research is an important first step. The Cluster of Research Infrastructures with Synergies in Physics (CRISP), for example, identifies and builds on commonalities in four areas: accelerators, instruments and experiments, detectors and data acquisition, and IT and data management. By sharing expertise and finding common solutions, the CRISP members hope to contribute to improving the efficiency of spending in large physics-focused research institutes. Michael Krisch, one of the coordinators of CRISP, explains the thinking behind the project: "Competition in science has been something that has been very beneficial in the past because it stimulates progress. But as research infrastructures are financed by taxpayers' money, we have to be increasingly vigilant to spend funds in a very efficient way. One way of doing that is to identify commonalities across the European research infrastructures and find common solutions to problems, which we can then implement."

In biomedicine, BioMedBridges is linking up various life science communities through innovative e-infrastructures that, for example, allow sharing of disease data between scientists studying models of diabetes in mice and known data from humans. This kind of comparison, which was previously very difficult, is now possible. And, through these kinds of innovations, synergies are also being developed and exploited in the biomedicine communities. As well as in physics and biomedicine, similar European cluster projects also exist for the social and environmental sciences.

'New' institutes are likely to be centers of excellence with particular synergistic specialisms, geographically spread out, but linked together through networks and virtual research environments (VREs). VREs are a diverse range of collaborative platforms for researchers from across the sciences and humanities that support users in a variety of ways. On one level, they can act as an enabler of open notebook science - either within specific communities or completely open to the public - allowing data to be recorded and shared with others. VREs can automate aspects of data recording, including metadata - for example by using a smartphone's GPS ability to record geographic location alongside other data recorded by researchers, such as for biodiversity studies. Modular, customizable workflows are another aspect of some VREs, which can be used by researchers to speed up the process of getting to the experiment and data collection stage.

This is being done both for individual communities, such as solar sciences (CASSIS, for heliophysics) and hydrology (DRIHMS), to more generic tools for building gateways for a range of research communities (e.g. SCI-BUS). The diversity of nature and scope of VREs means that they represent more of an evolving ecosystem than a specific type of platform. There is a need to continue this flexible approach to user-configurable e-science environments, to help build communities and define what is needed. Current EU initiatives have been successful in the fields of cross-border collaboration, particularly in terms of mobility and harmonized access. TERENA's (Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association) eduroam allows researchers to access wifi facilities in institutions across Europe and the rest of the world. Also, GÉANT's web single-sign-on (SSO) service, eduGAIN, provides secure access to remote collaborators whilst maintaining data and access security. The ELCIRA initiative, meanwhile, will provide web conferencing, wiki collaboration and data sharing secured by eduGAIN between Europe and Latin America. In addition, European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) and PRACE provide key e-infrastructures to support VREs in Europe.

Horizon 2020 is a goal-line. By shifting the emphasis to a date we can imagine, the European Commission is reframing the tasks ahead: to take on the grand challenges of the early 21st century with renewed focus. There is much change to come, but also an array of reassuring success stories that demonstrate the dynamism of e-infrastructures in the past. Taking on the grand challenges will require more coordination and strategic developments, but as synergies are identified within and between research communities, it is clear that research in Europe will continue to be more digital, more interlinked and more accessible than ever before.

Join the conversation

Do you have story ideas or something to contribute? Let us know!

Copyright © 2023 Science Node ™  |  Privacy Notice  |  Sitemap

Disclaimer: While Science Node ™ does its best to provide complete and up-to-date information, it does not warrant that the information is error-free and disclaims all liability with respect to results from the use of the information.


We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit ScienceNode.org — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on ScienceNode.org” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.