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International Cooperation in the Research Infrastructure dimension

Some research facilities, particularly in physics or astronomy, are so large, complex or expensive that they require international cooperation to construct and run them. Others are naturally global in scope as they respond to global challenges and/or require the combined skills, data and efforts of the world's best scientists.

As such, the international dimension is an integral part of the ESFRI process leading to the production of the ESFRI roadmap and is also fully embedded in the Research Infrastructure section of the Horizon 2020 Work Programmes.

Strong investment in research and innovation is needed to address pressing societal challenges such as climate change, health, an ageing population, and the move towards a resource efficient society.

Research Infrastructures play a vital role in addressing these challenges. Developing global research infrastructures and reinforcing cooperation of EU research infrastructures at international level contribute to the Open to the World priority set by EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas.

The European Commission is involved in a number of different international endeavours dealing with Research Infrastructures.


The Group of Senior Officials on global Research Infrastructures

In 2008 the G8 Science Ministers decided to establish a Group of Senior Officials (GSO) to take stock and explore cooperation on global research infrastructures (GRIs).

The mandate of the GSO included:

  • identifying research infrastructures of global interest
  • analysing how countries evaluate and prioritise the construction of large scale research infrastructures
  • identifying possible new areas of cooperation
  • promoting transnational access to research infrastructures of global interest
  • fostering “distributed infrastructures”
  • identifying measures to ensure that (the huge amount of) scientific data is appropriately handled, stored and accessed
  • adopting a common understanding for the joint lifecycle management of global research infrastructures

The GSO is composed of representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, UK and USA and has been active since 2011.

Among its main achievements are:

  • the agreement on a reference framework for global research infrastructures (the GSO framework) depicting the criteria to be addressed in establishing a truly global initiative
  • the support to the establishment of the Research Data Alliance
  • the launching of a number of case studies aimed at better exploring the different options in terms of international collaboration among Research infrastructures
More thorough information on the GSO and its activities can be found in the Progress Report presented at the G7 Science Ministers meeting in October 2015. A new Progress Report is scheduled for fall 2017.


Collaboration with the OECD Global Science Forum (GSF)

The European Commission is also actively contributing to the activities on research infrastructures launched by the OECD GSF.

Specifically the European Commission is part of the following working groups:

  • GSF working group on RI sustainability where the aim is to ensure coherence and complementarity with the long term sustainability effort conducted at European level
  • GSF working group on the socio-economic impact of research infrastructures which aims to reach an understanding at international level of the principles and processes to be followed when addressing the socio-economic impact of any research infrastructure


Research Infrastructures and Science Diplomacy

EU Commissioner Moedas has highlighted that international research infrastructures are an efficient catalyser of cooperation between peoples. They provide a tangible shared objective built on the common scientific values of rationality, transparency and universality.

The Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME), a unique international initiative to build a research infrastructure in Jordan, is a good example of the role of research infrastructures in science diplomacy.

SESAME fosters scientific and technological excellence in the region by providing a state of the art synchrotron. A synchrotron is a machine which accelerates electrons almost to the speed of light.

SESAME helps prevent or reverse the brain drain, by enabling world-class scientific research in subjects ranging from biology, archaeology and medical sciences through basic properties of materials science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences. At the same time it builds scientific and cultural bridges between diverse societies.

The project was launched in 2003 under the auspices of UNESCO, and the EU is supporting the process using a variety of instruments. 45 Nobel Prize Laureates have backed the project in an open letter.