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Knowledge without borders: Europe research networks in 2020

Today's research is very different to that of 20 years ago. Location is becoming ever more irrelevant as scientists form collaborations and work on research across different labs, institutions and countries. Scientific collaborations today span Europe, Asia, North America and beyond. They're as likely to contact each other via email as face-to-face. And from their office they can access instruments on the other side of the world, simply by opening their laptop.

In Europe GÉANT is at the heart of this connectivity. Spanning 40 countries, the GÉANT network connects 40 million researchers and students at over 8,000 institutions, giving them the ability to work together and share data across borders. Its 50,000 km infrastructure, including an impressive 12,000 km of optical fiber, has helped to recreate ancient instruments, further medical research and explore our universe.

In the last few years GÉANT has seen an exponential increase in traffic over its cables, new interest from users in healthcare and the public sector, as well as massive demand from existing customers such as CERN.

GÉANT celebrated its 10th birthday last year, but how will the network look in another 10 years from now?

GEANT network
The GÉANT network has extensive links to other world regions through collaboration with further networks, including those in North and Latin America, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Black Sea, South Africa, Central and Eastern AsiaImage courtesy: GEANT.

Written by a group of independent experts, 'Knowledge without Borders: GÉANT 2020' hopes to answer this question. The report from the European Commission, released last week, outlines a vision for European research and education networks in 2020. Among its recommendations the report suggests that GÉANT can better support our future researchers by promoting a service culture, becoming more business orientated, providing better links to other continents and offering a space to innovate and test new ideas and technologies.

The report also states that high-end users, such as CERN and JIVE, cannot expect to rely on the general infrastructure to meet their demands.

To best support scientific activities, it also hold recommendations for the cost of data roaming to be cut, and for GÉANT 2020 to be much more involved in the wireless domain - including the recommendation to reserve some spectrum specially for the research community.

By building on the success of the GÉANT network so far, the report's authors hope to build a European Research Area that is increasingly online.

You can read the full report here: 'Knowledge Without Borders: GÉANT 2020 as the European Communications Commons'.

- Manisha Lalloo, e-Science Talk

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