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Opening science to the world; opening the world to science

"The next two years will be a big opportunity to further the development of the digital European Research Area," says Ferrari.

Last week, iSGTW attended the EGI Conference 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal. The event's theme was 'engaging the research community towards an Open Science Commons' and featured much discussion about the road to realizing this vision.

Tiziana Ferrari, technical director of EGI.eu, publicly launched the EGI-Engage project in the opening session of the conference. This project, which has been funded through the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, aims to accelerate progress towards the implementation of the Open Science Commons. It seeks to do so by expanding the capabilities of a European backbone of federated services for computing, storage, data, communication, knowledge, and expertise, as well as related community-specific capabilities.

"Federation is important because science is inherently distributed," says Ferrari. "The next two years will be a big opportunity to further the development of the digital European Research Area." Ferrari stressed the vital role that the Open Science Commons can play in providing services for the 'long tail' of research, and spoke of her desire to eliminate many of the technical barriers that currently exist for researchers wishing to use e-infrastructures to support their work.

Diving deeper into open science

Sergio Andreozzi, strategy and policy officer at EGI.eu, followed this up with further detail on the second day of the event. He echoed Ferrari in outlining EGI's vision for the Open Science Commons as follows: "Researchers from all disciplines have easy, integrated, and open access to the advanced digital services, scientific instruments, data, knowledge and expertise they need to collaborate and achieve excellence in science, research, and innovation. They feel engaged in governing, managing, and preserving these resources for everyone's benefit, with the support of all stakeholders."

European Open Science Cloud

Earlier this year, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) published a paper proposing the establishment of a European Open Science Cloud that will enable digital science by introducing 'IT as a service' to the public research sector in Europe. This paper calls for a hybrid model that brings together public research organizations and e‐infrastructures with commercial suppliers to build a common platform that offers a range of services to Europe's research communities.

CERN's Bob Jones, the primary author of this paper, chaired a session focused on analyzing the opportunities and barriers related to cross-border procurement of e-infrastructure services. Jones, who is head of the Externally Funded Projects section within the CERN IT Department, highlighted the work carried out through the Helix Nebula Initiative and the PICSE (Procurement Innovation for Cloud Services in Europe) project in developing a procurement model that could enable research collaborations to collectively acquire services to support their research agenda.

Sergio Bertolucci, director for research and computing at CERN, also discussed the European Science Cloud at last week's event. "The grid [Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG)] has worked beautifully, and this has been fundamental to the success of the LHC's first run," says Bertolucci. Nevertheless, given CERN's ongoing drive to make the best possible use of its funding, he says it is important to understand how commercial services can be procured. "The costs are becoming very interesting," explains Bertolucci. "We think that a hybrid approach that puts together grids and clouds is the future for LHC computing." He continues: "Today, it is still more cost effective to operate our own facilities for LHC computing, but this situation is expected to change... a hybrid model gives us flexibility."

In addition, Bertolucci spoke about the importance CERN places on open science. "CERN has a long tradition of open science," he says. "Open science is connected to open data, and the LHC experiments have clear policies regarding open access to research data." Bertolucci also emphasized the success of Zenodo and the CERN Open Data Portal. "Open access is a logical next step and CERN is well placed to engage the high-energy physics community and link to the EIROforum".

"Open science is not a new concept... but today we can do so much more," says Andreozzi. "Openness, participation, collaboration, sharing, and reuse can lead to much greater social value."

Sverker Holmgren, chairperson of the executive board for the e-Infrastructure Reflection Group (e-IRG), also spoke at the event. He discussed in detail e-IRG's 2013 whitepaper on the road to achieving a European e-infrastructure commons. "Open science is a mode of transforming and opening up research through use of IT," says Holmgren. "In practice, you have to have policies, processes, and resources to guarantee open (and usually free) access to scientific publications, research data, software, methods and educational materials."

Perspectives from the European Commission

José Cotta, head of the Digital Science unit within the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content, and Technology (DG CONNECT), spoke about open science in the context of 'the Digital Single Market', which was officially unveiled earlier this month. "Science is the basis of innovation, so open science is one of the foundations of the Digital Single Market," says Cotta. "E-infrastructures are important for open science." He also discussed his belief that open science must catalyze a change in culture for researchers, research organizations, governments, and industry. "It's a very deep and profound change in culture and it touches everyone," says Cotta.

Further information on European-level policy was provided by Wainer Lusoli, a policy officer within the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG Research and Innovation). Like Cotta, he also discussed the outcomes of a recent European Commission consultation carried out into what was then termed 'science 2.0', but which is now simply referred to as 'open science'. This consultation, says Lusoli, has highlighted the need for open science to be "bottom-up" and "stakeholder-driven".

Lusoli went on to speak at length about the European Open Science Cloud. He argues that this can play a key role in supporting the transition to open science, and thus making the most of today's data-driven research. (Find out about CERN's vision for the European Open Science Cloud in the box on the right.)

Opening the door to open science

"The conference was a great success; our hosts did an excellent job," says Yannick Legré, director of EGI.eu. "I am sure that the discussions during the week were an important step towards realizing our community's vision for an Open Science Commons."

Learn more about EGI's vision for the Open Science Commons in an opinion article by Sergio Andreozzi. This will be published in our 10 June issue.

The event was supported by the Portuguese Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particles Physics (LIP) in Lisbon, the Portuguese national grid infrastructure (INCD),and IBERGRID. Find out more about these organizations in our recent feature article: 'Supporting research with grid computing and more.'

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