ESFRI needs clear strategic orientation, agreed the workshop in La Palma

What should be the role of ESFRI and the research infrastructures within the new European Research Area? How the monitoring process of the research infrastructures will be implemented? In what areas can ESFRI help the research infrastructures to expand their services to the scientific community? These were the main topics of 3-day workshop held by ESFRI on the La Palma, Canary Islands, from 6th to 8th November 2019.

We are contributing to policy-making issues of research infrastructures of European and global importance. Research infrastructures create an ecosystem with impact on areas such as health, energy, climate and the achievement of sustainable development goals”, said ESFRI Chair Jan Hrušák from the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Representatives of European research infrastructures, research policy-makers from various countries and European Commission representatives took part in the ESFRI workshop. The thematic workshop sessions were held in the form of round-table discussions. Each session was introduced by the keynote speakers. Discussion outcomes are currently being summarized and will be reflected in the strategic position document prepared by ESFRI.

EOSC needs to be useful

The very first session discussed the interconnection of research infrastructures and ESFRI within the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). One of the invited speakers was Luděk Matyska from Masaryk University. Above all, he stressed the need to set up the right and usable environment regarding EOSC that should come from individual researchers. He also added that data means not only data and databases, but all digital objects that aim to be shared.

Monitoring should not prioritize research infrastructures

The session on EOSC was followed by intensive debates on the landscape and monitoring of research infrastructures, national roadmaps or open access. The Slovenian ESFRI delegate Jana Kolar summarized the results of the ESFRI Working Group on Monitoring of Research Infrastructures Performance. “Based on extensive consultation with research infrastructures, we have prepared a list of 21 key performance indicators (KPIs), but we know that not all indicators are equally relevant for all research infrastructures”, said Jan Kolar. She also stressed that the list of KPIs would not be used to prioritize research infrastructures.

Roque de los Muchachos Observatory

One of the most fascinating research infrastructures is certainly the astronomical observatory on the top of the Roque de los Muchachos. The workshop participants had opportunity to visit observatory facilities on the very first day of the workshop. At an altitude of 2.500 meters above sea level, the observatory is made up of more than 10 major telescopes and is managed by the Institut de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC). Also, the Czech Republic has its facilities there. The Canary Islands are probably the best place for Europeans to watch stars. The local sky with a minimum of light pollution is even protected by the astronomical quality observatory law. Telescopes are available to scientists under open access conditions. “But if anyone wants to just look through our telescope to see stars, it can cost up to EUR 10,000 per hour”, said IAC Director Rafael Rebolo López during a tour of one of the world’s largest mirror telescopes, Gran Telescopio Canarias.

Future ESFRI

The visit to the Observatory along with the key themes of the workshop proved to be a brilliant way to bring different stakeholders together. “It has enriched our understanding. It also showed that there are different levels of understanding. We speak a language that we expect everybody will understand. We have a big job to do in terms of communication”, said Adam Tyson from the European Commission.

I have enjoyed the spirit of collaboration and we have got many ideas for ESFRI future strategic orientation in the newly defined European Research Area after 2020,” concluded Jan Hrušák.

Photo: StR-ESFRI