Towards a global Open Research Environment. Highlights from the “ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures” and the “EC Communication about the European Cloud Initiative"

In March and April 2016 the European research community saw the release of two important documents: the ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures - Roadmap 2016 and the Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe. Their unifying aspect is: an Open Research environment ensuring Europe a leading place in the global research landscape.

Open science, data sharing, software sharing is the future of science

“Open Science is based on the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the discovery process … the Open Science movement strives to increase:  reproducibility and accountability, re-usability and new applications,  collaboration and societal participation” (Open Science).

Open Science “is enabled by digital technologies, and driven by: the enormous growth of data, the globalization and enlargement of the scientific community to new actors (e.g. citizen science), and the need to address societal challenges” (Open Science, European Commission).

“Open Science e-Infrastructure will be an essential component of the Horizon 2020… interplay between science and computing … will not only spur economic growth and competitive advantage, but will help us solve our greatest societal challenges, understand climate change, cure disease and explore new frontiers of knowledge. It will be the fundamental, enabling technology for the European Research Area, a borderless Europe for science and innovation” (Open Infrastructures for Open Science, H2020 Consultation Report).

Giving a major boost to Open Science in Europe,

in March and April 2016 two important documents were published for the  European research community: (1) the ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures - Roadmap 2016 developed for the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures and (2) the EC Communication about the European Cloud Initiative Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe.

Both documents share a common aspect: an Open Research (Open science) environment, which can ensure Europe a leading place in the global research landscape. Open Research particularly focuses data sharing and regards different aspects of data lifecycle  such as data management, data mining, storage, share, reuse in a secure, responsible and privacy-compliant way.

Below follows a brief presentation of the two aforementioned documents.

ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures: at the crossroads of the Food and Health domains

This online updated document presents the 29  ESFRI  (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) pan-European  hubs  of  scientific  excellence that have reached the implementation phase, generating new ideas and pushing the boundaries of science and technology.

ESFRI are important pillars of European research and innovation for the next decades and they will require continuous support to fulfil their mission and ensure their long-term sustainability.

2016 Roadmap demonstrates the dynamism of the European scientific community and the commitment of Member States to develop new research infrastructures at the European level. 

PART 1 of the 2016 Roadmap

identifies methods and procedures that led to the call, the evaluation and selection of the new ESFRI Projects and the definition and assessment of the ESFRI Landmarks.  It contains the lists of 21 Projects and 29 Landmarks as identified by their acronym, full name, lifecycle stage, legal status, reference financial data and date of entry in the ESFRI Roadmap.

PART 2 of the 2016 Roadmap

contains the description of each of the ESFRI Projects distributed under five ESFRI Landmarks (Energy, Environment, Health & Food, Physical Sciences & Engineering, Social & Cultural Innovation). Each project is represented by a dedicated card reporting the outline of the research infrastructure, the background and the steps for implementation.

PART 3 of the 2016 Roadmap

contains the Landscape Analysis that provides the current context, in each ESFRI Landmarks, of the operational national and international research infrastructures open to European scientists and technology developers through peer-review of competitive science proposals.

Focus on Health & Food Challenges

The global demand for food is predicted to increase 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 (How to feed the world). We need to produce more food, by increasing crop yield, and the efficiency, resilience and sustainability of the food chain, i.e. more product for less water, energy and chemical inputs. Europe is well placed to address these issues.

The European Research Infrastructures (RIs) - currently on the Roadmap - constitute the starting point to achieve this ambitious goal for Europe by means of the following transversal projects and landmarks:

Source:  ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures - Roadmap 2016

Source: ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures - Roadmap 2016

Significant innovation and new developments often occur at the boundaries of research areas, and Health & Food RIs connect across other domains with a key role to play by ESFRI in promoting and facilitating collaborations and, where appropriate, exploring opportunities for integration in meta- or global infrastructures.

There are some significant gaps in pan-European infrastructures. The current landscape includes mainly the medical and biological sciences RIs.

However, there is a strong need of RIs on food and nutrition as well as sustainable agriculture and bioeconomy, building a natural link between the complex medical and agriculture fields.

Data, service provision and service integration are the core of Health & Food distributed infrastructures. The availability of the data and knowledge produced by public research funding as well as of new technologies to manage and integrate these data will extend the boundaries of frontier and applied research and generate opportunities to respond to the health and food challenges.

Opportunities for Innovation?

Health & Food RIs provide complementary and synergistic services, currently at different stages of implementation. There is great recognition of the progress they have made, as drivers of change and in their structuring effect in the disciplines they cover.

Mechanisms to ensure the effective use of available RIs and their services will be needed. Science continues moving away from a reductionist approach, and complex multi- and cross-disciplinary research projects will need infrastructure services which are provided by several infrastructures.

H2020 INFRADEV calls are an important start to develop the needed collaborations and clusters to achieve this. The scaling up and interoperability of the services provided by the Research Infrastructures (RIs) will require continued joint work in Health and Food, and across SWGs, aligned to predictable and systematic sources for financing. This will contribute to maintain and enhance EU leadership and global impact of Health and Food RIs, individually and collectively, promote greater discoverability, and transform data into knowledge and innovations.

Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe

Europe is the largest producer of scientific data in the world, but insufficient and fragmented infrastructure means this 'big data' is not being exploited to its full potential.
By bolstering and interconnecting existing research infrastructure, the EC plans to create a new European Open Science Cloud that will offer Europe's 1.7 million researchers and 70 million science and technology professionals a virtual environment to store, share and re-use their data across disciplines and borders. 

This EC Communication proposes a European Cloud Initiative which can secure Europe's place in the global data-driven economy, where cloud computing represents a key driver of Open Science.

The European Cloud Initiative will be underpinned by the European Data Infrastructure, deploying the high-bandwidth networks, large scale storage facilities and super-computer capacity necessary to effectively access and process large datasets stored in the cloud.

The European Cloud Initiative builds on the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy, which aims to:

  • maximise the growth potential of the European digital economy;
  • develop a trusted, open environment for the scientific community for storing, sharing and reusing scientific data and results, the European Open Science Cloud;
  • deploy the underpinning super-computing capacity, the fast connectivity and the high-capacity cloud solutions they need via a European Data Infrastructure.

Five reasons why Europe is not yet fully tapping into the potential of data

  1. Data coming from publicly funded research is not always open; likewise data generated or collected by businesses is often not shared, and not always for commercial reasons;
  2. Lack of interoperability prevents addressing grand societal challenges that require efficient data sharing and a multidisciplinary, multi-actor approach, e.g. climate change which cannot be addressed by climatologists alone;
  3. Fragmentation hampers data-driven science: Data infrastructures are split by scientific and economic domains, by countries and by governance models. Access policies for networking, data storage and computing differ;
  4. There is surging demand in Europe for a world-class High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure to process data in science and engineering. No single Member State alone has the financial resources to develop the necessary HPC ecosystem, in competitive time frames with respect to the US, Japan or China;
  5. Scientific data producers and users must be able to re-use data and to use advanced analytics techniques, such as text and data mining, in an environment that is at least as dependable as their own facilities.

What are the solutions?

The European Open Science Cloud aims to give Europe a global lead in scientific data infrastructures, to ensure that European scientists reap the full benefits of data-driven science across borders and scientific disciplines.

The European Data Infrastructure – underpinning the European Open Science Cloud - will allow fully unlocking the value of Big Data and digital by default.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in accessing and sharing data is trustThe uptake of cloud services in the public sector is uneven and slow. This is due to lack of trust and limited synergies between the public sector and the academia. The European Cloud Initiative will need to meet high standards of quality, reliability and confidentiality, to ensure protection of personal data and intellectual property, and security – in terms of resilience and protection against intrusion.

Last but not least.

Did you know that  the Research Data Alliance (RDA) -  whose objective  is to build the social and technical bridges that enable open sharing of data and which has a number of Working and Interest Groups supporting data production, interoperability and sharing in the Agricultural sector - is mentioned several times in both documents?

Particularly, the RDA is cited as:

  • a "grassroot initiative on long-term preservation and curation of data" (EC Communication about the European Cloud Initiative "Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe", p.4);
  • a community supporting the development of "specifications for interoperability and data sharing across disciplines and infrastructures" (idem, p. 9)
  • a "high profile international initiative aiming at building the social and technical bridges across these areas that enable open sharing of data" (ESFRI Roadmap 2016, p.132).

Indeed, “Increased openness and rapid, convenient and high-quality scientific communication - not just among researchers themselves but between researchers and society at large - will bring huge benefits for science itself, as well as for its connection with society” (Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science). 

Only “Doing It Together”  we can achieve the full development of the European Open Science Agenda as have “Embed Open Science in society” promoting the acceleration of dynamic data driven innovation, research visibility and knowledge discovery worldwide.


ESFRI Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures - Roadmap 2016
EC Communication about the European Cloud Initiative Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe

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Save the date!

June 2 – 3, 2016 57th
ESFRI Forum Meeting 
Geneva, Switzerland

September 11-17, 2016
RDA Eighth Plenary During International Data Week
Denver, Colorado

October 11 – 14, 2016
International Conference On “Data Analytics And Management In Data Intensive Domains”, DAMDID/RCDL’2016
Moscow, Russia 

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