Global connections strengthen research collaboration
Tools, technologies and human connections developed in an EU-funded project are fostering collaboration opportunities for researchers globally, aiding mobility and providing seamless access to knowledge and resources across the academic world.
© Trueffelpix #71626829 2019, source:stock.adobe.com
Spanning four continents and 18 countries, work conducted in the EU-funded MAGIC project is underpinning the development of a global marketplace of services and real-time applications for cross-border and inter-continental research communities.
“MAGIC was a success because of the project partners’ absolute commitment to collaboration, which has translated into a driving force for the exchange of information, ideas, services and resources among scientific communities across many disciplines around the world, continuing beyond the end of the project period,” says Luis Eliécer Cadenas, executive director of Latin American academic networking organisation RedClara, the project’s coordinating partner. “Today, MAGIC is still helping communities and NRENs worldwide.”
National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) are specialised service providers dedicated to supporting the needs of academic communities in a country. Aided by the MAGIC team, dozens of these national and regional research networks in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America have expanded their horizons, interconnecting with other networks via eduGAIN, a federated identity service.
Using eduGAIN researchers, students and academic staff obtain a single trusted identity as part of an identity federation, simplifying secure access to content, services and resources shared among participants globally.
Collaboration is further assisted by services such as eduroam, which provides researchers, teachers and students with easy and secure network access when visiting an institution other than their own, and Collaboratorio, a collaboration platform that enables distributed research teams to work and communicate online in real time via an increasing number of open source apps and services.
Collaborative apps for online knowledge-sharing
“Collaboratorio has now been deployed for NRENs around the world, and users are encouraged to add to the catalogue of apps available on the platform,” Cadenas says. “In this way national and regional networks have access to an enormous set of applications being developed worldwide by other communities, who at the same time will have access to a larger user base and collaborations to enhance and expand their applications following the open source principle.”
To put these technologies to work with end users around the world, the MAGIC team supported the creation of scientific communities in four research fields: biodiversity, environment, remote instrumentation and e-health.
Using Collaboratorio tools, the communities were able to organise online events and web conferences with as many as 75 researchers from Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America participating at the same time.
Another application, the Funding and Partners System, provides more than 3 500 users globally with access to funding opportunities, including EU and national programmes, as well as the ability to find potential research partners nationally, regionally and internationally.
As part of their promotional and training activities, the MAGIC partners organised workshops with technicians from 78 NRENs in non-European countries, as well as a number of events and conferences with regional groupings of national research networks.
As a result of the project, 16 countries joined eduroam and seven new user federations were established, expanding the coverage map for free secure internet access for academics and researchers, alongside increased adoption of eduGAIN and Collaboratorio.
“There are evident benefits in providing open source tools and free online training, enabling continuous growth and sharing between scientific communities,” Cardenas says. “But in addition to technical innovation, we should not forget the importance of human face-to-face contact: no matter how great the benefits of new technologies, nothing replaces human contact and interactions.”