The e-Infrastructure Reflections Group (e-IRG) is a self-regulated and independent body consisting of delegations from the EU Member States and Associated Countries and the European Commission. The e-IRG vision is to facilitate integration in the area of European e-Infrastructures and connected services, within and between member states, at the European level and globally. In its series of Roadmaps, e-IRG builds on this vision to fulfil its mission to support coherent, innovative and strategic European e-Infrastructure policy making and the development of convergent and sustainable e-Infrastructure services.
In the previous version of the Roadmap, presented in 2012, e-IRG pointed to the need of a single e-Infrastructure Commons for knowledge, innovation and science as a living ecosystem that is open and accessible and continuously adapts to the changing requirements of research. The notion of an e-Infrastructure Commons has now been widely accepted, and significant steps have been taken towards its implementation. However, challenges still remain at the same time as the availability of convergent and sustainable e-infrastructure services being further manifested as an essential factor for success of the European and national research and innovation systems.
In the Roadmap 2016 e-IRG intends to define a clear route how to evolve the European e-infrastructure system further, and turn the vision of the e-Infrastructure Commons into reality for 2020. e-IRG is convinced that the implementation of the e-infrastructure Commons is a large step towards European leadership in research infrastructures including e-infrastructures, including the realisation of the European Open Science Cloud and the EU Data Infrastructure, which are part of the Digital Single Market Technologies and the Public Service Modernisation Package.
The key recommendations, further elaborated on in the Roadmap text, are:
Research infrastructures and research communities should reinforce their efforts to:
elaborate on and drive their e-infrastructure needs;
participate in the innovation of e-Infrastructure services;
contribute to standards and take care of their data.
E-infrastructure providers should further increase their efforts to:
work closely together to fulfill the often complex user needs in a seamless way.
National governments and funding agencies should reinforce their efforts to:
embrace e-infrastructure coordination at the national level and build strong national e-infrastructure building blocks, enabling coherent and efficient participate in European efforts;
together analyze and evaluate their national e-infrastructure funding and governance mechanisms, identify best practices, and provide input to the development of the European e-Infrastructure landscape.
The European Commission should (e.g. in future Work Programmes):
provide strong incentives for cross-platform innovations and further support the coordination and consolidation of e-infrastructure service development and provisioning on the national and the European level.
The Roadmap starts with a brief elaboration on the e-IRG vision and an assessment of the extent to which the current national and international e-Infrastructures already realise this. It then presents a landscape analysis of the current European e-infrastructure system and identifies the key challenges that hinder e-Infrastructure harmonisation and integration. From the analysis, it is clear that an extended effort on "emphatic co-operation and coordination" among all main stakeholders is required. This involves the providers (the e-Infrastructure developers and operators), the users (research infrastructure including the ESFRI projects, large scientific communities, and users belonging to the "long tail of science"), and the policy makers and funders (the national governments and their agents and the EU). Good coordination can be established through a formal coordination platform among all stakeholders with strong national involvement, in-line with the vision of the e-Infrastructure Commons. Also in line with the vision, such a platform can be implemented using potentially distributed, multi-stakeholder model of governance.
Following the landscape analysis, the Roadmap describes the way forward and provides the recommendations summarized above. The implementation of the e-Infrastructure Commons, loosely integrating the different types of e-Infrastructures, builds on establishing coordinated access to all e-Infrastructure services and tools. The establishment of such a "marketplace" will provide a one stop-shop for the users, providing choices and directing them to a suitable set of services. The marketplace can make use of several technologies and services, such as cloud technologies, a searchable service catalogue and a common identity / authentication / authorisation scheme. In this way, standardised and single point of access to services will be achieved, without promoting monopolies or implying the need of creating of a single integrated provider. Instead, such a solution should be built to be modular and open to new actors, encouraging cooperation, competition and innovation. Also, the national/regional dimension could be made strongly visible: National/regional abstractions and/or instances of the EU marketplace could be available. Such abstractions may provide a sub-set of the European-level services, based on national participation or availability and on national laws and restrictions. On the other hand, extra national/regional services may be available in the different member states or regions. The e-Infrastructure Commons will constitute a coordinated ecosystem among EU and national/regional levels, being automatically synchronised among them. This vision is also consistent with the European Cloud Initiative (ECI) EC Communication, which foresees the development of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) as a federated set of services where Research Infrastructures will be connected and the EU Data Infrastructure (EDI) offering advanced underlying networking, HPC and data services. Some of the above components are already planned to be prototyped or procured, such as the e-Infrastructures Service Catalogue or the European Open Science Cloud.
The Roadmap considers how to achieve the right balance between operation of services and development of innovative ones, and working further on sustainability of the services is key.
e-IRG believes that the new EC tools of Framework Programme Agreements (FPAs) and the upcoming Operational Grants are in the right direction for increasing users' confidence in the e-Infrastructure long-term sustainability. e-IRG also believes that common spaces with common access and security policies should be gradually implemented as slices of the different e-Infrastructure resources, as it may not be possible to harmonise all the resources of all member states. A common or interoperable identity scheme for all e-Infrastructure providers should be developed, supporting eduGain and possibly other schemes such as the e-Government IDs (e-IDs).
The full Roadmap is available for downlaod in PDF. http://e-irg.eu/documents/10920/12353/Roadmap+2016.pdf