Research infrastructure – European progress

The first presentation at EUNIS this year gave an oversight of the EU funded activities on research e-infrastructure. The EU is looking to promote the interoperability of research data and build an underlying infrastructure that facilitates collaboration both between institutions and between disciplines and provides a resilient platform to European researchers to use. There is a significant investment planned in this area – hundreds of millions of euros. However there is recognition that, although there are some technical issues that need addressing, the greater difficulties are addressing strategic and policy differences, financing services and governance of shared resources. The difference in intellectual property requirements of the member states is also an issue.

Some of these issues have been picked up by the UK Research Data Service project – there the challenges are recognised as being more cultural than technical. It is acknowledged that there will need to be incentives to encourage the publication of research data in a usable format. Introducing the desire to make data available across disciplines adds further complications. There will be a need to ensure that there is consistency in the use and definition of metadata to tag research information and the cultural differences between different disciplines will need to be addressed.

There is also a concern that the Grid resources provided will not be utilised to the full. The statistics presented did not suggest a high level of usage; the last figures I saw for the UK Grid suggested it was being used by a minority of institutions and a small subset of academics within those institutions. It was suggested that one reason for this was the need for specialist programming skills to use the grid and recognised that it needed to become more intuitive to increase usage.

The projects within the EU’s Framework 7, if successful, will go some way to making the infrastructure and the data within it more accessible. There is collaboration across EU states within disciplines but the main challenges will be the cultural, strategic and governance issues. The one technical concern that was only really mentioned in passing was the need to manage access. I believe that implementation of federated access management varies across Europe but hope to get a more detailed picture during the course of the week.

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