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The duty of CSC is to provide Finnish researchers the IT infrastructure they need for research: network, computing and data services. All the things that we call the e-Infrastructure. In the last decade we have had to adapt to the evolution of research which is no longer national but European, if not global. Together with the European Commission, in particular DG CNECT and DG Research we have started to build pan-European infrastructures by connecting the centers together.
We have done that for the networks with GÉANT, then we did it for computing with PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) and EGI, and now we are doing it for data with EUDAT and OpenAIRE.
When dealing with data we must not forget the social challenges and the need for developing common ways of work for making the data re-usable – this is what we are doing in Research Data Alliance (RDA), on a global scale.
I have been personally involved in some of these initiatives for more than 10 years through chairing the European strategy for HPC (High-performance computing in Europe Taskforce, HET, back in 2006–2007), chairing EUDAT and vice-chairing PRACE, for example. CSC has also been an active player in setting up and sustaining GÉANT and EGI, and initiating the RDA Europe project.
Number of the e-infrastructures has been established for various purposes over the years. The integration level between the infrastructures vary. This can be confusing for the user communities. What they want are services 1) that work – preferably together; 2) which are easy to use; and 3) can be provided on demand. And for me this is what we need for the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) to succeed.
Without trust there cannot be European Open Science Cloud. Trust between the e-Infrastructures becomes first. We need to foster cooperation rather than competition with each infrastructure focusing on its core business instead of trying to address all needs. Secondly, trust between the e-Infrastructures and the research infrastructures with a clearer division of roles and responsibilities when it comes to the provision of IT services, with some services that can be shared across research communities and others that are domain specific.
" Europe must build on the skills, experience and decades of public investment in scientific infrastructures."
In addition, increased trust between research infrastructures themselves helps in using joint services for different user communities. Increased trust and collaboration between the Commission units are also necessary since the borderline of EOSC and European Data infrastructure is not and will not be exact – data, computing, networks, software and competent people are required everywhere.
This also requires that we need to work across organizational boxes, be it a research infrastructure, e-infrastructure, national center or a directorate general. If we manage to build and maintain trust well we can come up with synergies, better and more efficient investments with common e-Infrastructure services shared across the research communities as well as better research and innovation.
Establishing a true sustainability strategy requires an institutional commitment from the European Commission but also, and perhaps more importantly, from the Members States. This is the part that is probably the most difficult to achieve. Most of the research funding is still national. Why should member states invest in the European Open Science Cloud?
It is our duty to make the case for the EOSC: we need to be clear on the scientific case but also on the financial case. It takes time but we should not count our efforts on this. We have done that for PRACE for example – things started moving ahead when financial case was properly addressed in addition to the scientific case. In the end the efforts paid off.
In a way, the same situation often happens at a national level when we are talking about regrouping skills and services together. CSC is one example where multiple European initiatives and national e-infrastructure with related services work together. We would be happy to act as a case study on how to build trust between the different stakeholders at least in a national scale with tight connections to European projects.
Here I would highlight three things. When building the governance, we should ask: what needs to be governed? I would like to come back to the issue of commitment. Commitment requires a formal governance structure, to sustain and strengthen the policies and programs over the long term that we want to put in place for the EOSC.
We need to have people who are accountable and have a clear mandate to represent funding organizations. We need to make sure this linkage always exists, otherwise the governance board becomes a technical club which cannot really commit to anything.
Finally, we need to involve the end users – the researchers – from the start. At CSC we have a scientific board, deciding on resource allocations to all Finnish researchers. This gives users a real sense of ownership of the infrastructures and its resources. And in the end, this is the best way to sustain the infrastructure.
We need to achieve a similar thing with the EOSC. This is why the governance body should not govern everything; we need to empower individual actors and foster innovation. This is about how we all work together with research data at a national, European – and eventually global level. I would like to highlight Finland as an example where simultaneous, coherent development of services, skills, policies, and making the different stakeholders work together has been a success story in promoting Open Science.
We are not starting from scratch. Europe must build on the skills, experience and decades of public investment in scientific infrastructures. By engaging and using the strength of all relevant stakeholders who support today’s research – funding agencies, policy makers, research infrastructures, e-Infrastructures, libraries, data and service providers – the European Open Science Cloud will significantly impact the way research is done in Europe, and it will put European research to the forefront of Open Science globally.
The blog is shortened from CSC’s Managing Director Kimmo Koski’s speech in EOSC Summit – Brussels 12 June 2017. The summit was recorded and the speech can be viewed starting on 16:42:30. Watch the video on https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/european-open-science-cloud-summit.