The findings of the empirica-led study eResearch2020 – The Role of eInfrastructures in the Creation of Globel Virtual Research Communities - were welcomed by the European Commission and members of the global eInfrastructure community in Brussels yesterday.
More than 40 e-Infrastructure managers and stakeholders attended the final event of eResearch2020 to hear the consortium present the results of the 14-month study, including new data on eInfrastructure demand and usage, scenarios of eInfrastructure futures and recommendations for public action in the EU. Findings were based on the study teams's uniquely broad survey of the virtual reseearch communities served by today's eInfrastructures and on evidence from in-depth studies of a sample of 18 diverse eInfrastructure initiatives and projects across the globe.
In a keynote address, John Wilbanks (VP Science, Creative Commons) made the case for the "generativity" of open eInfrastructures, which enables user communities to scale up the array of applications far beyond the ideas of their creators, which are always constrained to their time. In contrast to slick, controlled environments closed to developers, open technologies give researchers the freedom to "screw it up" essential to enabling the one-in-a-hundred creative spark to trigger new knowledge or even technological revolution.
The study team was proud to have won for its discussion panel leading members of Europe's eInfrastructure community: Steven Newhouse, Technical Director of the European Grid Initiative EGEE (to become EGI), Matthew Scott, General Manager of the GEANT network operating body DANTE, and Paul Wouters, Programme Leader of the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Under the chair of Simon Robinson, empirica director, the distinguished panelists welcomed the study results and gave the participants their perspective on study outcomes. Stephen Benians (BELIEF project) participated in the panel and linked study topics to the following BELIEF Brainstorming Event on indicator development.
e-Infrastructures play a increasingly pivotal role in the research landscape of today and facilitate and foster the emergence of global virtual research communities. eResearch2020 has for the first time researched a broad variety of types of e-Infrastructure, their state of development, their users and usage, and their role in supporting productive research in Europe and beyond.
The study has underlined that the field of e-Infrastructures is truly heterogeneous, ranging from supply of high speed research network interconnectivity (a prominent example being the operating and development of the backbone as supplied by GEANT) to providing access to data for virtual research communities in single academic fields. e-Infrastructures include organisations and services as diverse as national and international multi-purpose grids, supercomputer infrastructure, data grids and repositories, tools for visualization, simulation, data management, storage, analysis and collection, tools for support with regard to methods or analysis as well as remote access to research instruments and very large research facilities.
The study found that the vast majority of researchers who are users truly value their e-Infrastructures, which are often indispensable for their research; the infrastructures enable them to be more productive, work on problems that could not be addressed before, access resources they had hitherto not been able to use and allow collaboration with colleagues around the globe which previously worked independently.
Positive impact was found to accrue particularly to projects which are international rather than national in scope, developer-driven rather than user-driven and concerned with computing rather than data. As to users, those seem to benefit more who do research in novel and dynamic fields, both in competitive and collaborative environments but less in established fields with low collaboration intensity. e-Infrastructures are also especially helpful for researchers from developing countries in overcoming access and organisational barriers in their work.
The draft study report and the study brochure are available on the project website at http://www.eresearch2020.eu.
The workshop was organised by the study consortium consisting of Empirica Communication and Technology Research (Simon Robinson and Tobias Hüsing), Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (Franz Barjak), Oxford Internet Institute (Ralph Schroeder) and National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago (Zack Kertcher) on behalf of the European Commission's DG Information Society and Media.