Monday, October 17, 2011

Reflecting on e-IRG: Innovation and Grand Challenges

Last week, I was at this year’s second e-IRG workshop in the picturesque polish town of Poznan. It was an action-packed two days as delegates presented and debated best practices and policies for e-infrastructures. Opportunities for ‘joining forces’ were promoted through sharing information, and we heard from a number of ESFRI cluster projects (BioMedBridges, CRISP, DASISH, ENviro, EuroAgro and ITER) as well as data infrastructure projects (EUDAT and OpenAire).

Opening the session was Kostantinos Glinos, Head of Unit Head GEANT and e-infrasturctures, DG INFSCO, who presented some of the possible actions from Common Strategic Framework actions (2014-2020). In the next few years, as e-infrastructures move away from a purely technical arena towards an infrastructure of services a broader initiatives and a wider range of skills and policies will be required. One of the new focuses is likely to be around fostering the RI innovation potential and their human capital.

Developing research e-infrastructure policies across national boundaries is especially important for progress, and this is what one project, e-INFRANet, is currently doing. So far, nine EU countries are involved and three core policy areas have been identified: clouds computing (not surprisingly), green issues and openness. Check out for information on their next workshop on 'The Open Agenda'.

I also heard about a relatively new policy development project called SIM4RDM ERANE. Six EU partners aim to provide a framework to enable researchers to use emerging technical infrastructures effectively. Answering questions such as: What are the bottlenecks for data management? What needs to happen within universities? Do we need new facilities and data management roles within universities? The findings from this project will feed into advising on data management policy for research infrastructure.

After a gala meal of traditional polish meal of goulash soup, a fish called
Zander and pickled tangy cucumbers, I slept soundly, ready for a full day of discussion. Subjects tackled on the second day included how best to serve the user communities and also debate around the expanding role of e-IRG.

One talk, focussing on sustainability of e-infrastructure (which is my personal interest), highlighted some of the parameters to examine in building an open sustainable ICT research infrastructure. The research from the University of Brussels could provide those with an interest in examining sustainability with a useful model. Findings from this policy development project will be available at the end of the year at

Andrew Lyall from ELIXIR, spoke about BioMedBridges, an important project that will serve a large-scale user communities needs (over 3 million people). It is a consortium, formed by 21 partners (including EMBL) that will construct a common e-infrastructure to allow interoperability between data and services in the biological, medical, translational and clinical domains. Providing secure, robust and ethical access to data for a wide range of users will be the major effort of the project which starts in January 2012.

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