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14 Jan 2021

Visions, needs and requirements for (future) research environments: An Exploration Series with Researchers

Image Courtesy of the EOSC Secretariat project


 

By Katharina Flicker (TU Wien) and Bernd Saurugger (TU Wien)

As partner of the project consortium EOSCsecretariat, TU Wien is responsible for researcher engagement. This task comprises an exploration series, including the organization of workshops, consultations and interviews with members from university networks, funding bodies and various research communities. In order to address the latter in a structured way, TU Wien interviewed high-level researchers such as members from the Marie Curie Alumni Association, ERC grantees and Nobel Laureates. The series with researchers was launched in December 2019 and ends one year later and with 17 published interviews.

Researchers from various domains – Engineering and Technical Sciences, Medical and Health Sciences, Natural Sciences and the Social Sciences and Humanities – participated in this series and helped to (i) obtain a better understanding on how research is changing, (ii) identify current barriers and services considered essential for a well-functioning EOSC  and (iii) elaborate visions on how research will be conducted in the future and what the effect and impact on research infrastructures will be (see table 1).

Table 1. Number of Interviewees by Domain. 17 researchers - five of them female - from different fields were interviewed for the exploration series on visions, needs and requirements for future research environments. The fields covered are Engineering and Technical Sciences (1 man), Medical and Health Sciences (2 women), Natural Sciences (3 men), and Social Sciences and Humanities (3 women, 8 men).

 

The interviews covered a broad range of topics including the re-assessing of research environments, data and interdisciplinary research:

 

Re-assessing research environments

Discussions surrounding the re-assessment of research environments focused on science as global and collaborative effort, sustainability, and (research) support services: As (scientific) challenges extend across borders, science needs to be considered a global effort. The EOSC as part of a global research environment needs to be aware of its stakeholders’ needs. Thus, it is crucial to accompany the development of research environments including the provision of services by an ongoing dialogue that involves research communities, and other stakeholders. The sustainability of research environment should be supported by long-term plans for financing that allow for fair distribution on the European level. Research support services may include services related to public archiving, knowledge management systems, standardised lab record keeping, domain-specific search engines and the integration of multiple existing platforms.

 

Data

Focusing on data led to the discussion on the trustworthiness of data, big data, open data and FAIR data. The trustworthiness of data has to be ensured by all means. Services to help with checking and verifying data quality need to be offered. EOSC should support infrastructures that come with a low entrance barrier and ease the access to massive scale processing services and cloud-based compute platforms and libraries. The bigger and more complex data gets, the more crucial it is that people have competences in reading data, evaluating data, classifying information correctly, or assessing whether data is suitable for addressing a specific task. Thus, data literacy basics should be anchored in curricula at all levels of education. EOSC is a great model for fostering Open Science. As such, it needs services to promote and enable Open Science and help lower the effort required to open data. Applying FAIR principles to data is central for making research (funding) more efficient and sustainable as redundancies can be avoided. EOSC should therefore offer services to assist in making data FAIR as well as guidelines and trainings to increase the number of researchers who know how to make data FAIR and how to annotate data properly.

 

Interdisciplinary Research

Interdisciplinarity allows research problems to be tackled from different perspectives. Crossing disciplinary boundaries, however, leads to problems due to communication and language barriers. EOSC could help to get rid of such barriers by providing advanced translation services not only to translate from one language to another but also to translate scientific concepts of one discipline to other disciplines, to governments, to the public, or across different levels of expertise and career stages.

These points were discussed in more detail in a report and published together with key takeaway messages. Both will be distributed among the (future) EOSC governance bodies, the EOSC Working Groups and various stakeholders including researchers, members of university networks and funding bodies, thus providing input in the ongoing development processes of the EOSC.

TU Wien representatives of EOSCsecretariat: Paolo Budroni, Katharina Flicker, Juliana Giroletti, Andreas Rauber (PI), Barbara Sanchéz, Bernd Saurugger. Andreas Rauber, Katharina Flicker and Bernd Saurugger organized and carried out the exploration series with researchers.