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e-IRG to show resiliency in coronacrisis by going virtual during Croatian and German EU Presidencies with e-IRG Café and webinars

Following the open e-IRG Workshop webinars under Croatian EU Presidency, we had the opportunity to talk with e-IRG Chair Paolo Budroni about the plans the e-Infrastructure Reflection Group is hoping to carry out in the months to come. e-IRG is a strategic body to facilitate the integration in the area of European infrastructures and connected services within and between Member States at the European level and globally. As a body, e-IRG is composed of national delegates who are appointed by the Member States. Each country has two delegates. Of course, e-IRG also has delegates from the Associated Countries. e-IRG's mission is to support both coherent, innovative and strategic European infrastructures policy making and the development of convergent, sustainable infrastructure services. A lot of objectives can be linked to this mission.

The infrastructures that you are talking about are the infrastructures to support science in Europe?

Paolo Budroni: The infrastructures to support science are in e-IRG's main focus. However, we should not forget that infrastructures are supporting the changing world of data. Data are surrounding us and therefore we need infrastructures everywhere. We are addressing any kind of infrastructures. Of course, science infrastructures are in the focus. Therefore, e-IRG also cooperates with all these bodies and pan-European projects and initiatives which have their focus on science infrastructures. However, we should not forget that the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) which are also part of the members of our body, are also part of our initiative, so education is also in our focus and within our radar.

To give an idea, what was the latest work that you did or the latest advice that you wrote?

Paolo Budroni: We started this year with business-as-usual but then we entered a new phase in which infrastructures were suddenly the most important thing. The coronacrisis was showing to many of us that without infrastructures, we were not able to communicate and to continue our daily work. We fell into this situation and we changed our intentions. During the Croatian EU Presidency, we organized three webinars addressing the grand challenges of infrastructures within the new European Research Area. We also introduced a new formula which is the e-IRG Café. This is a way to create a form of virtual round table which is aimed to promote the discussion within the delegates community.       

The webinars are a kind of online workshop instead of the real workshops in previous years where people met in person. What are the outcomes of this first virtual workshop?

Paolo Budroni: The people in the e-IRG community who participated were very satisfied. The organisation received some very positive feedback. It was shown that trough the infrastructures the communities that we can reach, motivate, and work with are widened. We reach more people than we usually do at our normal workshops. Why was this possible? Because of the virtual formula, the participation was facilitated through this new way of communication. We could achieve good results by involving the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) Governance Board and the European Commission, as well as high levelrepresentatives of the Croatian EU Presidency. A lot of experts accompanied us in this experience.

Which topics were discussed at the online workshop?

Paolo Budroni: We mainly discussed three points that were identified as crucial in cooperation with the Croatian EU Presidency. First topic was the development of adequate skills and the related infrastructures of education and science. Then we discussed how partnerships between related stakeholders within and across national boundaries could be enhanced and promoted. Thirdly, we put into the focus of our attention   the sharing of data and the FAIR principles which is really important because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the sharing of data and the FAIR principles, we used some very good examples within and across scientific domains, institutions and countries.

Is the European Open Science Cloud the main focus of the things you are looking at right now? Or are you also looking at EuroHPC and networking?

Paolo Budroni: What you are mentioning now is the backbone of the European landscape. Of course, EuroHPC is important, as well as the big institutions behind it and the efforts by the Member States. However, this year is supposed to be the year where we will have the official launch of the newly established legal entity for EOSC during the German EU Presidency that will start now. We are now focusing on this. There are many reasons why we are focusing on EOSC. We should not forget that EOSC is a portion of the whole picture. Some of the e-IRG delegates are members of the EOSC Governance Board. Several members of the e-IRG delegates are also working very actively in the Working Group of the EOSC processes. EOSC is at the moment in the centre of our attention but in the long term, it is just a part of the European Research Area and the Digital European Single Market. It is a part which is regulated by the legal framework of the European Union. EOSC is important because of the relevance that is given to the timeline. This is affecting  any kind of activities in Europe now.  

What will e-IRG be doing during the coming half year?

Paolo Budroni: e-IRG is a very flexible body. We have shown that we are able to adapt in a very flexible and resilient way to the coronacrisis. We have started close and  continued relationships with similar bodies which are also supported by the Member States. We continue our policy of independence and openness, providing opportunities for all stakeholders to debate their views and perspective analyses, and propose approaches and consolidate ways of working. How do we do this? First of all, we are in close touch with the stakeholders of the German EU Presidency, the Ministry of Science and the EOSC Governance Board which is also involved in the German EU Presidency. We have opened the consultation with the e-IRG Programme Committee for our activities which will take place in the third week of September and the first week of December 2020. We are planning again the e-IRG Café and the webinar. Of course, we will repeat the creative experience with the three or four webinars addressing the main topics chosen by the German EU Presidency and adapting these topics to the needs of our community which is related to infrastructure development.

We are looking forward to these results. Thank you very much for this interview.