A workshop on e-Science and e-Infrastructures was organised by RedIRIS, the Spanish academic and research network that provides advanced communication services to the scientific community and universities and by its Portuguese counterpart RCTS, the Science, Technology and Society Network. The event took place on 7 May 2018 in Salamanca, Spain and was a chance to take stock of the digital transformation of science and the current state of research collaboration networks in Europe.
I was privileged to be a speaker for the opening session of the workshop, where I was able to highlight some of the EU's current work in the field of research. It was not without a certain emotion that I was back in Salamanca, the city where I grew up, surrounded by a rich cultural and academic heritage.
Digitalisation of research and science
Digital technologies have transformed our society in its aspects, and the process is an ongoing one. Digitalisation is stimulating innovation across all sectors of the economy. Science and research are no exception, and they are in the process of adapting to make sure they make the most of this transformation. For example, thanks to digital technologies, the concept of Open Science is becoming more popular, and as a result research is becoming more open, global, collaborative, creative and closer to society.
Moreover, the dramatic increase in the amount and variety of scientific data available has fundamentally changed the nature of research. The fact that it is becoming easier to store, find, use and share this data has pushed the frontiers of science across traditional geographic borders and scientific disciplines. In a nutshell, with the development of e-Science, now it is easier than ever to collaborate and exchange data and good practices. To support these trends, the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) builds on previous investments in research and e-Infrastructures and aims to create a virtual environment with services for research data that are free at the point of use, open and seamless. This environment will benefit 1.7 million European researchers and 70 million professionals in science and technology and will support Europe in tapping into the full potential of data-driven science.
In its recently adopted EOSC Implementation Roadmap, the European Commission proposed action lines in order to make EOSC happen. The next concrete step will be the launch of a first version of the EOSC portal in November 2018. The portal will act as a gateway to resources and services that support activities of those involved in EOSC. This will be a very strategic moment, when EOSC finally becomes a concrete reality for the research community. The EOSC portal will then be progressively expanded with more services and resources and new features.
Supporting the development of pan-European networks
For the European Commission, it is also really crucial to encourage and support, especially through digital technologies, increased collaboration between all researchers, regardless of their academic discipline or their location. This cooperation has the power to boost European excellence in science and multiply opportunities for innovation.
The Commission has, for instance, supported the successful GÉANT project for many years. During the workshop, I was really pleased to see that this project was highlighted as a good example of efficient collaboration between research networks at pan-European level.
GÉANT provides an infrastructure for e-Science that offers highly reliable access to computing, analysis, storage, applications and other resources to the research and education community. The GÉANT network connects over 50 million users at 10,000 institutions across all scientific disciplines and in more than half the world's countries.
Concretely GÉANT provides:
- practical support and services (networks, security, trust and identity, cloud) for researchers and other partners to innovate, share knowledge and agree on strategies
- planning, procurement, construction and operation of large-scale, advanced international high-speed networks
- organisation of events such as TNC – Europe’s largest networking conference for research and education (the next edition TNC2018 will be held on 10-14 June in Trondheim, Norway)
- gathering of community expertise and provision of staff expertise
- liaison with other e-infrastructure organisations, user communities, industry and of course the EU.
The European Commission will continue its efforts to support European research in its digital transition. We will closely monitor the successful implementation of the EOSC and personally I really look forward to the launch of the EOSC portal in next November, which will make the dreams of the entire research community come true! Last but not least, we will continue to support projects such as GÉANT to promote a more collaborative and global approach to research.