Monday, April 12, 2010

The “fifth freedom” from the Fifth EGEE User Forum: notes from the Opening Plenary

The EGEE 5th User Forum is in full swing, posters are up, demos are in progress and our first speakers have taken the podium in the extremely grand main auditorium here at the University of Uppsala.

With warm welcomes to the delegates from Bob Jones, EGEE Project Director and ex-Technical Director and local host Erwin Laure, the meeting was well and truly open. Enric Mitjana, Scientific Office from the EC told us that “EGEE has done a very good job.” He went on to explain how e-Infrastructures are key enablers of what’s known in EU circles as the “fifth freedom”. Coming from the Lisbon Treaty, this term refers to the free movement of researchers, scientific knowledge and technology. (If you’d like to know what the other four are, they’re people, goods, capital and services).

E-infrastructures help to connect the finest minds, share and federate the best scientific resources and build European and global research communities. In the future, e-Infrastructures will go on to build on their strengths: facilitating the European Research Area and providing a production quality platform for thousands of researchers. Many of these users will come from the ESFRI projects as these become established – the European e-Infrastructures will continue to be regarded as world class.

That said, there are still some areas which could benefit from work. Not all research communities are having their needs met at the moment and there are still high entry barriers for some users. Europe needs seamless, integrated services and some of the legal and cultural barriers preventing e-Infrastructures reaching their full potential in areas outside e-Science should be broken down.

In conclusion, Enric sees the User Forum taking place this week as an excellent opportunity for providers and users to engage in a productive dialogue to bring about a strong European Research Area. As Bob Jones had already recommended that we take the opportunity to meet with our colleagues, discuss and share a beer we can now see this as EC endorsed!

The session closed with an introduction to the Swedish eScience Research Centre by Juni Palmgren, now in its fourth month of operation. In future science will be complex, multi-scale and multi-science, leading to high data intensity and inhomogeneity, placing new demands on education. In the life sciences alone, human genome data that in 2000 took 10 years to generate, can now be produced in 10 hours by the big sequencing centres. The data deluge from biology is rivaling the 15 petabytes per year that will be produced by the LHC. All this costs personnel and money to support.

So with the first plenary session completed and the poster and demo session about to start, it’s time to start the discussions rolling!

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