Europe Approves Path to Open Science Commons

By Tiffany Trader

January 15, 2015

A new European-based project seeks to facilitate open access to research infrastructures across borders. On January 15, the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) announced that the EGI-Engage project (full name: Engaging the Research Community towards an Open Science Commons) underwent a successful review by the European Commission with a score of 15/15, giving the project the green light to begin in March 2015 with the public launch to take place at the EGI Conference 2015 in Lisbon, May 18-22, 2015.

The 43 EGI-Engage project partners from Europe, the US and six countries in the Asia-Pacific region will collaborate on a framework for the Open Science Commons to provide researchers from across many disciplines with convenient access to digital services, data, knowledge and expertise in support of their research goals. According to Tiziana Ferrari, EGI-Engage Project Director and EGI.eu Technical Director, the project’s main aim is to “expand the capabilities of a European backbone of federated e-Infrastructure services for research.”

The purpose of this endeavor is developing and refining a strategy for the Open Science Commons (http://go.egi.eu/osc), put forth as a “a new approach to digital research, tackling policy challenges and embracing open science as a new paradigm for knowledge creation and collaboration.”

“EGI-Engage will build upon the achievements of EGI-InSPIRE, which developed a service-oriented mind-set in the EGI Community and consolidated existing user communities,” states Matthew Dovey, Chair of the EGI Council. “This project will support the implementation of our new strategy, to be more agile in providing a bridge between research communities and research e-Infrastructure provision, through the co-design and co-development of services, community-specific Virtual Research Environment services, and a grid and cloud infrastructure to foster open science and open data.”

In a proposal paper for the Open Science Commons, EGI highlighted the ideal of a European Research Area, “a unified research area open to the world based on the Internal Market, in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely and through which the Union and its Member States strengthen their scientific and technological bases, their competitiveness and their capacity to collectively address grand challenges.”

The document identified a number of challenges that could be addressed with this approach, including:

  • Lack and/or incomplete roadmaps for research and e-Infrastructures.
  • Fragmented solutions and policies for access to data and knowledge.
  • Insufficient cooperation between public and private sector.
  • Lack of national and European organization between all stakeholders.
  • Lack of a single portfolio of IT services / many providers without a single market.

EGI envisions the Open Science Commons as a way of moving past these obstacles in order to bring about the desired European Research Area. The idea marries the concepts of Open Science, which prioritizes the opening of knowledge creation and dissemination to a large body of stakeholders, with a Commons, a platform for sharing within a community that provides nondiscriminatory access in a regulated manner.

As described in the proposal, “Open Science Commons seeks to encompass all the elements required for a functioning ERA: research data, scientific instrumentation (such as the Large Hadron Collider or Square Kilometre Array), ICT services (connectivity, computing, platforms and research-specific services such as portals), and knowledge.” Undergirding the realization of such a comprehensive, collaborative framework are the digitalization of the research process and the globalization of scientific community.

The paper, published in November 2014, also served as an invitation to the community to participate in shaping the implementation of the European Research Area. The high degree of interest is evident as the project gears up to launch with 43 stakeholders, representing a number of world regions. EGI.eu, in its role as consortium leader, is tasked with preparing the grant agreement.

“EGI-Engage will improve the services that EGI and the National Grid Initiatives offer to scientists and will strengthen the ties within the community of European e-Infrastructure Providers through community-specific pilots that will foster technical integration of the ICT capabilities offered to the ERA,” comments Yannick Legré, Managing Director of EGI.eu. “We are confident that new services and more integration will mean more researchers from different sectors benefitting from e-Infrastructures to create innovation and excellent science.”

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