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Professor John Womersley elected as the new chair of ESFRI

On 8 October 2013 at the 46th Meeting of ESFRI, Professor John Womersley was elected as the new Chair of ESFRI with immediate effect. Prior to being elected Chair of ESFRI, he was a member of the ESFRI Executive Board and has worked with the European Commission to develop new ideas about EU funding of the operating costs of large research facilities in Europe.

Professor Womersley has been Chief Executive Officer of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the UK since 1 November 2011. As a graduate of Cambridge and Oxford (D. Phil. Experimental Particle Physics), he has played a leading role in particle physics both in Europe and the United States. He worked at the Florida State University and Fermilab before becoming a scientific advisor to the Department of Energy in the US. He returned to the UK in 2005 to become Director of the Particle Physics Department at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at a time when it was building and delivering vital components to CERN's Large Hadron Collider. In 2007, Prof Womersley took on a broader role in STFC, managing the Science Programmes Office which oversees the STFC's science and technology strategy, science operations and planning.


ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach. The competitive and open access to high quality Research Infrastructures supports and benchmarks the quality of the activities of European scientists, and attracts the best researchers from around the world.

The mission of ESFRI is to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe, and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to the better use and development of research infrastructures, at EU and international level.

ESFRI's delegates are nominated by the Research Ministers of the Member and Associate Countries, and include a representative of the Commission, working together to develop a joint vision and a common strategy. This strategy aims at overcoming the limits due to fragmentation of individual policies and provides Europe with the most up-to-date Research Infrastructures, responding to the rapidly evolving Science frontiers, advancing also the knowledge-based technologies and their extended use.

Since it was formed in 2002 at the behest of the European Council, ESFRI has witnessed significant advances towards unity and international impact in the field of research infrastructures. The publication of the first Roadmap for pan-European research infrastructures in 2006, and its update in 2008 was a key contributing factor, and several projects are now entering the realization phase. The Forum is determined to sustain the momentum in the implementation of the projects on the Roadmap, to expand the outreach to those scientific fields which are still evolving their conceptual approach in this direction, and to increase the involvement of all Countries by developing ad-hoc Regional policies. A further update of the ESFRI Roadmap, focusing on Energy, Food and Biology, was published at the end of 2010.

ESFRI's mandate has been expanded by the Council in December 2012. In its Conclusions on A reinforced European research area partnership for excellence and growth, the Council endorsed the need for strengthened partnership in the field of research infrastructures and "for renewing and adapting the mandate of ESFRI to adequately address the existing challenges and also to ensure the follow-up of implementation of already on-going ESFRI projects after a comprehensive assessment, as well as the prioritisation of the infrastructure projects listed in the ESFRI roadmap."

The main task of ESFRI is now to help the projects on the roadmap move towards implementation. To keep Europe at the rapidly evolving forefront of science and technology, and to increase the capacity to meet the needs of the EU and World scientific community, much remains to be done: ESFRI looks forward to the challenging times ahead.