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Siting of Research Infrastructures

In December 2009, under the leadership of Paul Zinsli (Switzerland) ESFRI approved a report from a Siting Issues Working Group on “How to identify, to compare and to choose the best sites for pan-European research infrastructures in proposing the relevant criteria and optimized procedures” (PDF icon 410 KB) .


At its December 2007 meeting, ESFRI decided to form a Group dealing with the question of Site Characterisation of Research Infrastructures under the Chairmanship of John Wood. At the June 2008 meeting, the Terms of Reference for the specific ESFRI Working Group on “How to identify and compare the best sites for pan-European Research Infrastructures” were approved.

In September 2008 Paul Zinsli took over the role as Chair to review the tasks foreseen for the Site Issues Group in collaboration with his predecessor John Wood.

Review of the tasks of SIG

1. What is the Problem?

Siting issues mainly come up when large infrastructures are to be constructed at a new site or when central nodes of a distributed network have to be set up. If there is no site offered, the issue mainly is finding or attracting a country or region willing and able to offer a site. If there are several competing sites the issue is finding the optimal site considering scientific, financial, political, environmental, etc., aspects

In the ESFRI 2008 Report, 44 Research Infrastructures are listed for some of which the siting issue could be relevant. Support by ESFRI would be most valuable if there are competing sites.

2. How can a SIG make a significant contribution?

The ESFRI/SIG should support the implementation of the ESFRI Projects in a significant way if the proposers (owners) ask for it. The siting issues are very different for the different kinds of infrastructure (central, decentralised) and has to take into account the specific context of the concrete project. Extensive general considerations therefore seem not appropriate. The SIG should therefore concentrate on a short methodology for the two different cases mentioned above as well as for central and decentralised sites (possibly then to be listed in a Checklist/Handbook). This methodology could then be used by the site proposers themselves or by ESFRI if the project owners (proposer) wish so.

A SIG should moreover be helpful in bringing on track the implementation of projects on the ESFRI list by supporting independent evaluations, bringing competing site proposers together and supporting the political decision process if the prospective partners so wish.

3. Objectives of the Working Group on Site Characterisation / Site Issues Group (SIG)

  • Guidelines on relevant procedures in siting decisions: Identification of best national and international practises which take into account all factors (and pitfalls) relevant to the ESFRI Projects.
  • Checklist on Timing and Steps to take towards a site decision
  • Report on lessons learned in siting large international Research Infrastructures
  • Organisation of independent evaluation reports on competing sites to bring facts to the decision process if the SIG is asked to do it
  • A review of the inquiry by the ESFRI Secretariat on siting issues of the 44 ESFRI Projects regarding problems; identification of where ESFRI/SIG could support