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Future direction of global research and e-infrastructures landscape in e-IRG/ESFRI organized network session at ICT2015 in Lisbon

Around 35 persons filled the small room to its maximum capacity during the networking session on "Policy Aspects of Research- and e-Infrastructures of Global Scale" that was jointly organised by e-IRG and ESFRI during the ICT 2015 event in Lisbon on 22 October 2015. The session consisted of six short five minutes presentations followed by an interactive part.

Fotis Karayannis (e-IRGSP4 and Str-ESFRI) introduced the background for organising the session and its objectives. For large Research Infrastructures (RIs) it is necessary to collaborate at international scale due to the complexity, high-construction and operation costs or the global nature of the challenges that have to be addressed. The objectives of the session were to present and discuss the latest policy aspects in RIs and e-Infrastructures with emphasis on cross-cutting issues such as access to data.

Yannis Ioannidis (ATHENA Research Center and University of Athens, ESFRI delegate) presented the conclusions from the 2014 International Conference on Research Infrastructures (ICRI 2014). ICRI 2014 was organised by the European Commission and the Greek EU Presidency in Athens on 2-4 April 2014 and was attended by 763 participants from over 60 countries.

Yannis Ioannidis presented the ICRI 2014 conclusions on requirements. These requirements are inclusive for truly global RIs and Open Access to data. The latter requirement implies access, use, reuse for now and in the future; accessibility, comprehensibility, assessability, and revisability; data network development; training and free mobility of staff; security and privacy; and public and commercial interest balance.

The conclusions on the way forward included encouragement of global cooperation in RIs; coordination with ESFRI and Group of Senior Officials (GSO) with the global research infrastructure (GRI) framework endorsed by all interested countries; GRI goals to be agreed up-front through the international roadmap, a decision-making process and legal framework, the possibility for each nation to make its own decisions and have conflict resolution, technology integration via innovation of partnerships with industry; and sustainable funding via business models and long-term funding.

ICRI 2016 will take place in Cape Town, South Africa on 3-5 October 2016 and will address GRIs essential for grand challenges and as innovation hubs, the development and sustainability of global and regional RIs, and the way towards an international roadmap.

Juan Bicarregui (STFC and RDA) introduced the GSO activities and report. The Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on GRIs was established in 2008 at the G8 Ministerial meeting in Okinawa to provide a non-binding and open forum for policy exchanges on GRIs, to inform and improve international cooperation, to share information about existing and planned new RIs and to establish principles for the development of new partnerships and collaborations. The GSO mandate was renewed in 2013 at the G8 meeting in London where Global Challenges, GRIs and Open Scientific Research Data were addressed and where it was concluded that scientific research data should be open.

The GSO report was issued in October 2015 just before the network session. It describes successively the mandates given by the G8 Ministers, a Framework for RIs of global interest, the Landscape of RIs of global interest, policy areas, new initiatives of relevance for GSO (e.g. RDA), and future actions for the GSO (e.g. new collaborations and case studies). A list of 48 GRIs is provided in an Annex.

The GSO has set up a number of sub-working groups to tackle the following policy areas: promoting access to RIs, access to data and data management, alignment of evaluation criteria and prioritisation processes, life cycle issues, and legal framework for GRIs.

The G7 ministerial meeting in Berlin in October 2015 stated on GRIs that "further progress on sharing and managing scientific data and information should be achieved, especially by continuing engagement with community based activities such as the Research Data Alliance RDA" and that "the GSO is encouraged to continue their work on convergence and alignment of inter-operable data management that could accomplish an effective open-data science environment at the G7 level and beyond".

Yannis Ioannidis explained in his second presentation that in May 2015 the Competitiveness Council gave to ESFRI the mandate to explore mechanisms for better coordination of Member States investment strategies in e-Infrastructures also covering HPC. Since the e-IRG consists of experts in e-Infrastructures ESFRI has invited e-IRG to participate in this endeavour that will take place during the next 12 months. A working group will be formed and it is expected that the e-IRG Chair will have a prominent role. Key is that the working group will work on investment strategy, not technology strategy. The outcome might have impact for Europe as a whole but also for the individual Member States that might have to change their strategy.

Arjen van Rijn (NIKHEF and e-IRG) introduced the e-Infrastructure Commons vision of the e-IRG which is described in the e-IRG White Paper 2013. It is an ecosystem of ICT services for scientific research where users enjoy the freedom to choose the services they need from a mix of public e-Infrastructure and commercial services; where providers have the freedom to innovate, and which is attained through a joint strategic effort between users and primary strategic actors and suppliers.

Arjen van Rijn presented the recommendations for the different strategic actors. International user groups (ESFRI and other RIs) have to define their e-infrastructure strategy. International e-Infrastructure organisations have to join forces. National governments and funding agencies should fund an innovative and sustainable national e-infrastructure, and empower and fund user communities. The European Commission has to encourage and facilitate innovation, and empower international user groups. The existing e-Infrastructure providers should innovate or perish.

Finally Arjen van Rijn invited the audience to join the discussion on the progress of the e-Infrastructure Commons at the e-IRG workshop, Luxembourg, 24-25 November 2015 and at the e-IRG workshop, Amsterdam, 9-10 March 2016 that will take place in conjunction with the ESFRI 2016 Roadmap Launch.

The last presentation was by Rosette Vandenbroucke (VUB and e-IRG) on the European Charter for Access to Research Infrastructures. This is an EC document that defines principles and guidelines to be used as a reference when defining access rules and conditions for access to RIs. The document, however, has no legally binding nature. The stakeholders involved in the creation of the Charter included besides the EC: e-IRG, ESFRI, EARTO, LERU, CESAER, EUA, Nordforsk, and Science Europe.

Rosette Vandenbroucke explained the procedure that had been followed by the EC, ESFRI and e-IRG to create the Charter which included several sessions with all stakeholders. She ended the presentation with the lessons learned. Positive aspects were that the definition of the charter with cooperation between stakeholders was very well received, that it was written by a selected group of three, and that the consultation in different phases worked well. Negative aspects were that it is difficult and takes much time to reach complete consensus and that the danger is that the content becomes too general. The Charter is a European Charter but it is also applicable to global RIs.

Marcin Ostasz (BSC and e-IRGSP4) moderated the interactive part of the networking session. In summary, the participants came to the conclusion that the separation between RIs and e-Infrastructures is getting blurred. There are opportunities for RIs that are maturing. In the next years new governance structures are bound to emerge which have to be managed carefully. Sustainability is important. For the consolidation of the policies, the focus will be on e-Infrastructures but there will be some links with the new Centers of Excellence too. It was agreed that the new working group will report to the Digital ERA Forum as well. Important keywords are trust and dealing with legacy, but workflows are also important for researchers. Plans to include discussions of policies of access for the private sector have been addressed in the Charter of Access, in an e-IRG White Paper and in a report by the e-IRG Task Force on Legal issues. It is not easy in practice though and should be dealt with at the European level. It might be used at the e-IRG workshop in Amsterdam. Finally, the open science movement is global as it is addressed by RDA and also by other groups in the US and the EC.

For more information please consult the full report of the ICT2015 network session.