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New Belgian Delegate Chris De Loof believes in driving role for e-IRG for process of converging research infrastructures

After the e-IRG Workshop in St. Paul's Bay, Malta, we took the chance to talk with Chris De Loof, ICT advisor at the Belgian Science Policy Office and one of the two e-IRG Delegates for Belgium, next to Rosette Vandenbroucke. Chris De Loof is a new e-IRG Delegate and attended his first e-IRG Workshop in Malta. His background is in research infrastructures. He has been active in long-term preservation platforms. He has represented Belgium in digital humanities, social science infrastructures, the ERICs. One of his passions is still the geo-cultural heritage. Ten years ago, he was working in digital cultural heritage for Europeana. This is still one of the things that is going on for Chris De Loof.

Chris De Loof met a lot of interesting people at the e-IRG Workshop and was pleasantly surprised by the high level of conversations. For Chris De Loof, this is a new network that he intends to elaborate. He thought that this is just the beginning referring to the presentations that he heard which were an eye-opener. He knows a lot of projects that were discussed. He was surprised by the maturity of the proposals that were discussed and the input of the other e-IRG Delegates. The topics were long-term preservation and sustainability which are exactly the expertise of Chris De Loof. He described e-IRG as a kind of intermediate or middleware between the European Commission and national policies.

One has to discuss with the European Commission and with the national administration. If you look at the state-of-the-art of some projects and what is happening in other countries, it is possible to set up a kind of practice where Chris De Loof hopes to give input from Belgium and also communicate in Belgium about what others are doing. He thought e-IRG has a role to play in this, being an independent body. Everybody is discussing on a high level between their own organisation, between ministries, and between the European Commission. He thought this could turn out to be a fruitful collaboration.

As for his expectations with e-IRG in the next years, Chris De Loof said that there are a lot of things moving now in the European landscape. He mentioned EuroHPC and the European Open Science Cloud. There are a lot of integration projects from existing e-Infrastructures that are paid by the European Commission using tax payers' money but finally they are drawn to each other. At a certain moment, some pilots will emerge but Chris De Loof thought there is still a lot to do. The policy is to converge a lot of infrastructures but one is just in the beginning of that process. e-IRG has an important role to play, just to facilitate a lot of these things.

We wanted to know whether there are also major things happening in Belgium. Chris De Loof said that Belgium has set up a long-term preservation platform that can be used for digital cultural heritage and for digital and open research. The aim is that all the assets that are in the long-term preservation platform will stay up and running for the next 100 years, Chris De Loof presumed. There are a lot of mechanisms to keep it working. The aim is to have a kind of platform that makes it possible for all researchers and for all the institutions that are doing research, to put their assets in one safe harbour, in one safe place. They don't have to know how everything is working. They just have to ingest their content into it and we keep the data for them, as Chris De Loof explained. This is one of the things that is happening.

The other thing is that Belgium is not yet part of the EuroHPC. There are a lot of discussions why Belgium is not in this club. The question is whether Belgium can make a deal with the others to also contribute to the EuroHPC. All the neighbouring countries of Belgium have signed the declaration. Chris De Loof hoped that Belgium can be part of this endeavour. That would be great.

Note of e-IRGSP5: In the meantime Belgium has now signed the EuroHPC declaration too.