Research Infrastructures | JPI OCEANS

Research Infrastructures

Research infrastructures (RIs) play an increasingly important role in the advancement of knowledge and technology. They are a key instrument in bringing together a wide diversity of stakeholders to look for solutions to many of the problems society is facing today, offering unique research services to users from different countries, also attracting young people to science and helping to shape scientific communities.

Scope of Research Infrastructures

In the field of marine sciences Research Infrastructures include research vessels and their underwater equipment (e.g. ROV, AUV, manned submersible, USV, towed devices, sea-floor drilling and coring equipment),fixed coastal and open sea observatories (e.g. buoys,ballast and other type of platforms, anchored or fixed in the sea bottom, moorings, sea-floor stations, landers, etc.), mobile observatories (e.g. oceanic profilers, gliders, drifters, ferrybox), relocatable observatories(coastal HF radars), marine land-based facilities and in situ testing sites for ocean engineering (e.g. deep wave basins, water circulation canals, hyperbaric tanks, material behavior in sea water testing laboratories, marine sensors calibration laboratories, in situ test sites for marine renewable devices), experimental facilities for marine biology, biodiversity and ecosystem studies (e.g. marine genomics facilities, aquacultureexperimental facilities, mesocosmfacilities, ecosystems and biodiversity observatories).

Besides the infrastructures above, intended as major scientific marine equipment or set of instruments and knowledge‑based resources such as collections, archives or structured scientific information, we should consider also ICT‑based e‑infrastructures(networks, computing resources, software and data repositories, such as satellitedata processing centersand generally marine data centers, for data validation, storage and dissemination through web portals, including access to high computing facilities & generic modeling).

Each class of facility above is peculiar for the services and access offered, and this should be taken into account when defining integrated rules for transnational access, sharing, management and costs reporting.

Accessing And Sharing Marine Infrastructures

RI are often the key to enable excellent researchers to tackle effectively complex or very fundamental questions, to gain new knowledge, to create innovation or to play an important role in education e.g. in training of young scientists and technological personnel. These tasks could not be fulfilled without access to these RI.

Moreover, sharing of infrastructures among their operators, for common programs or projects, is becoming a requirement in order to lower/optimize their costs. The degree and method of infrastructure sharing can vary in each country depending on regulatory and competitive climate.

Transnational Access

The so far used terms "transnational access" (TNA) usually means supporting new opportunities for research teams or individual researchers to obtain access to specific pan-European, national or regional RI they require for their work. Several types of TNA formulas can be identified:

  • in the framework of FP7 projects,
  • within thematic joint calls between Member States,
  • within the framework of "pure" common program.

 

Infrastructures Sharing

A particular form of TNA is in the form of sharing under specific agreements. Sharing an infrastructure among bodies means to put at mutual disposal a platform to perform research and development activities, that hopefully should be of common interest of the involved parties. Since it is estimated that 50% of national budgets for marine science is required for operating and replacing marine infrastructures assets, cost-sharing and widening access are necessary steps towards integration reflecting national needs.

Operative Procedures And Agreements For Tna And Infrastructures Sharing

The provision of access to or a sharing of a research infrastructure should be ruled by a Memorandum of Understanding between involved parties (user and infrastructure provider). This agreement defines the terms whereby the infrastructure provider will put at disposal to the user partner a facility as a platform to carry out an experiment detailing:

  • The access/sharing conditions, including timing, location, quantity and restrictions of the use of the infrastructure.
  • The user commitments regarding any obligation in using the infrastructure, including commitments regarding safety rules.
  • The infrastructure provider commitments regarding any obligation towards the user partner (e.g. technical support and training to be provided, applicable safety rules on-site, requested insurance policy, etc.).
  • Commitments related to costs sharing (e.g. user access costs, infrastructure provider operating costs of the facilities in the period of access/sharing).
  • The reporting requirements, including evidence of the use.
  • Obligation for data delivery.
  • Obligations and rights of the involved parties for what concerns: intellectual property rights, confidentiality, liability and other legal issues regarding the signed agreement.

A detailed working plan should be part of the agreement presenting the scope of the work and its schedule.

The MOU can therefore include options for both TNA and infrastructure sharing.

Access/sharing Costs Standardization And Reporting Procedures

in order to standardize and reduce the complexity of adopting different procedures for recognizing and accounting costs of infrastructures and their access, and taking into account the experience established within FP7 projects, the proposed approach is mainly in tune with the EC one. This does not prevent to introduce changes when the EC contribution is not involved and more flexibility and feasibility is requested by partners.

Access to data

Open Access to Data and Data Sharing is one of the big open issues when dealing with Research Projects and environmental research.

Recent technological development greatly lowered the cost of data acquisition, and the growing availability of fast internet connection enables several different ways of data sharing and integration. As a consequence, state of the art science today - especially when considering support to policy at a national and pan-European level - often needs data series that span time and space lengths that are not achievable in single research campaigns, but need integration of different datasets. On the other hand, the cost in term of man days of translating and merging data from different sources, when feasible, is still high, being this often a time-consuming task. Open and interoperable access to data has therefore become, in the past 10 to 15 years, one of the key objectives especially for environmental data, and is considered the easiest and most powerful way to achieve the mentioned integration.

Property Right and Data Policy

The possibility to give access (free or paid) and license to copy/use/transmit/display the Research outputs in the Actions or in Research Projects is a legal issue, and depends on the initial agreement between the funding party and the research institution.

Most Research funding comes from industrial research and development or from governmental funding, and it is then crucial to understand how and to what extent the property rights policy of the funding entity is compatible with the diffusion at large of projects results.

Recommendations

  • JPI Oceans Actions should provide Data with standard metadata, and it will be useful to look at the different de-facto standards used and developed by specific communities to better describe and find relevant Data.
  • JPI Oceans Actions should carefully define each kind of user in the Actions agreements, and link this user typologies to their access possibilities and permitted use of the Data produced in the projects. A useful concept - only briefly reported in the lines from the MOON Agreement - is the "quality of service", that is the Action Agreement or one of its Annex should state the specifications of Data-related services in terms of availability and frequency of release.

 

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