Useful Reference Texts and Definitions
- The role and added value of large-scale research facilities, Technopolis Final Report, 2011
- G8+O5 Global Research Infrastructure: Working Group on Data, Report 2011
- A Vision and Strategy for Software for Science, Engineering, and Education: Cyberinfrastructure Framework for the 21st Century
- Establishing Large International Research Infrastructures: Issues and Options” (OECD – Global Science Forum), December 2010
- Legal framework for a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), EU Council Regulation n.723/2009
- Guide to cost-benefit analysis of investment projects (DG Regional Policy, 2008)
- New practical guide to EU funding opportunities for Research and Innovation (EC, 2011)
- Synergies between FP7 and structural funds for Research Infrastructures (EC, 2010)
- ref. 4.2
- Flyvbjerg B. et alii (2003), Megaprojects and Risks, Cambridge University Press
- Moore S. & Shangraw Jr. R.F. (2011), Managing Risk and Uncertainty in Large-Scale University Research Projects, Research Management Review, 18:2
- ref. 4.3
- ref. 5.1
- Garrett G. et Davies G. (2010), Herding Cats: being advice to aspiring academic and research leaders, Triarchy Press
- Skills and Human Resources for e-Infrastructures within Horizon 2020
- A Brief List of Misused English Terms in EU Publications (EC, 2013)
- Athena SWAN, Charter for Women in Science, Annual Report 2011
- The toolkit guide from the UK equality challenge unit
The overall objective of the ‘Research infrastructures’ part of the FP7 Capacities programme is to optimise the use and development of the best research infrastructures existing in Europe. Furthermore, it aims to help to create new research infrastructures of pan-European interest in all fields of science and technology. The European scientific community needs these to remain at the forefront of the advancement of research, and they will help industry to strengthen its base of knowledge and technological know how.
Within the scope of this European Community action, the term 'research infrastructures' refers to facilities or resources that provide essential services to the scientific community for basic or applied research in all scientific and technological fields. Including the associated human resources, this definition covers:
- major equipment or sets of instruments used for research purposes
- knowledge-based resources such as collections, archives, structures information or systems related to data management, used in scientific research
- enabling Information and Communication Technology-based infrastructures such as Grid, computing, software and communications
- any other entity of a unique nature that is used for scientific research.
Such research infrastructures may be 'single-sited' or distributed (a network of resources).
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. RIs offer unique research services to users from different countries, attract young people to science, and help to shape scientific communities.
New knowledge and, by implication, innovation, can only emerge from high-quality and accessible RIs: for example, radiation sources, data banks in genomics, observatories for environmental sciences, systems of imaging or clean rooms for the study and development of new materials or nano-electronics are at the core of research and innovation processes. Moreover, RIs help to create a new research environment in which all researchers - whether working in the context of their home institutions or in national or multinational scientific initiatives - have shared access to unique or distributed scientific facilities (including data, instruments, computing and communications), regardless of their type and location in the world. RIs are therefore at the centre of the knowledge triangle of research, education and innovation, producing knowledge through research, diffusing it through education, and applying it through innovation.
Types of RIs
The term ‘research infrastructures’ refers to facilities, resources and related services used by the scientific community to conduct top-level research in their respective fields, ranging from social sciences to astronomy, genomics to nanotechnologies. Examples include singular large-scale research installations, collections, special habitats, libraries, databases, biological archives, clean rooms, integrated arrays of small research installations, high-capacity/high speed communication networks, highly distributed capacity and capability computing facilities, data infrastructure, research vessels, satellite and aircraft observation facilities, coastal observatories, telescopes, synchrotrons and accelerators, networks of computing facilities, as well as infrastructural centres of competence which provide a service for the wider research community based on an assembly of techniques and know-how.
RIs may be single-sited (a single resource at a single location), distributed (a network of distributed resources), or virtual (the service is provided electronically).
These key infrastructures have not only been responsible for some of the greatest scientific discoveries and technological developments, but are also influential in attracting the best researchers from around the world and in building bridges between national and research communities and scientific disciplines.
ESFRI distinguishes between ‘distributed research infrastructures’ and networks of existing research infrastructures. The following definition has been applied by the ESFRI to underline the differences between the two:
- A European research infrastructure can adopt a single site or a multiple site structure according to their specific technical characteristics and mission. When a research infrastructure is structured with more than one site it could be defined as a distributed infrastructure.
- A European distributed infrastructure, as recognised by ESFRI, is a singular research infrastructure, having a unique Name and legal status, Director or board of directors, Management Structure, Strategy and Development Plan, Access point for users, Annual Report and Fiscal address although its research facilities have multiple sites.
- A European distributed infrastructure has to have a pan-European interest, i.e. unique laboratories or facilities rendering services for the efficient execution, with critical mass, of top-level Community research, ensuring open access to all interested researchers based on scientific excellence and on the quality of the user proposals, creating a substantial added value with respect to facilities with a more limited scope.
- A European distributed infrastructure must bring significant improvement in the relevant scientific and technological fields, establishing a common standard and metrology of the technical offer in all sites, and addressing a clear integration and convergence goal of the scientific and technical standards offered to the European users in its specific field of science and technology.
It should be noted that the ESFRI definition is not decisive. It does not offer a clear answer whether, and to which extent, an infrastructure is expected to have a research program, an administrative department, or its own financial accounts. The EU Regulation clarifies andthe crucial indicator is that it has a clear European dimension, meaning that it
- can only operate when organised at the European level
- and offers added value by operating at the European scale
The practice in setting-up various ESFRI research infrastructures shows that a (coordinating) organisation may act as an ERIC according to the draft Regulation when it offers added value of European dimension and this also would require the involvement of Member States and Associated States at the governmental level in the establishment, construction and operations of the infrastructure. This implies that the first option for organizing distributed research infrastructures is not valid for an ERIC.
- Loose interconnected network nodes. One (or a few) nodes coordinate common operations.
- Hub and spokes with dependent operational relations (spokes not necessarily owned by the hub). Mostly e-Infrastructures.
- Multiple sites infrastructure, with different places of operation and a central unit
In planning to establish regional RIs, Member States should better use the capacities of ESFRI for setting-up upgraded evaluation procedures, peer reviews and/or new set of indicators related to their national and regional facilities. In this respect, the concept of “Regional Partner Facilities (RPF)” is an important development. In essence it means a regional RI associated with a research facility of pan-European character. RPF must be a facility of national or regional importance in terms of socio-economic returns, training and attracting researchers and technicians. Moreover, the quality of the facility including its service, management and open access policy must meet the same standards required for pan-European RIs. However, rules for recognition of a facility as RPF are yet to be developed, including, among others, regular peer-reviews. However, the benefits of being a RPF are not yet sufficiently explored and appropriate funding opportunities will have to be elaborated.
The key recommendations of the expert group are listed below. They address the major issues in the realization and management of large scale infrastructures, especially those requiring global collaboration. Together they form a concise summary of our report.
1. At the start of a research infrastructure (RI) initiative, the political stakeholders must agree upon a shared understanding of the foreseen scope, schedule and cost, addressing inherent uncertainties and any external constraints, and describing what must be done if deviations occur during the following phases. This understanding should include awareness of potential cultural differences between the different partners, and should be encapsulated in a comprehensive, formal founding document.
2. Where decisions are inspired by political and financial considerations, rather than scientific and technical requirements, the RI management must ensure that the political stakeholders are made explicitly and fully aware of the consequences of these choices.
3. The governance, management, and supervisory structures must have clearly defined and differentiated authority and responsibilities. They must be able to immediately impact the project and to quickly resolve conflicts.
4. A clear and structured organisation is necessary, with direct, transparent reporting lines and the full use of management and project control tools.
5. Independent scientific and technical evaluation and external professional auditing of financial and management performance must be carried out and acted upon.
6. To harmonise expectations and reduce risk, a standardised, stepwise, and phased approach to the preparation and approval of an RI project is necessary.
7. The management must be chosen on the basis of clearly specified competencies, including project management and technical skills. Within its remit, management at all levels must be given full independence, responsibility and accountability for its specific budget.
8. Up-to-date, bottom-up planning, control and reporting systems based on work breakdown structures and financial management tools covering technical, financial and schedule issues, are mandatory. Management at all levels must have full responsibility and be accountable for their specific budget.
9. Best-practice systems for project control and risk management have to be fully embedded in the project management, covering technical, financial and schedule issues, together with mitigating measures in case of deviations.
10. The procurement process should make best use of the internal and external technical expertise, and of appropriate negotiation procedures according to the technical demands of the procurement.
11. The responsibilities of all suppliers for deliverables must be contractually fixed in a thorough way based on detailed specifications and drawings. The project must have full daily access to all relevant information (technical, financial and schedule related).
12. Costs must be clearly defined and spending must be realistically planned, including in-kind contributions. Costs should be estimated with appropriate precision according to the different approval stages, and contingencies must be provided. The costs must be controlled by always current bottom-up best-practice systems.
The European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG) derives from Council Regulation (EEC) No 2137/85 of 25 July 1985 and is meant to “cooperate effectively across frontiers”. Its purpose is to facilitate or develop economic activities of its members. It can comprise companies or firms as well as other legal bodies governed by public or private law and natural persons. In view of its far-reaching liability clause (Art. 24 Para. 1 of the Council Regulation): “The members of the grouping shall have unlimited joint and several liability for its debts and other liabilities of whatever nature“, however, it does not seem to be a suitable instrument for large scale facilities in research.
The legal framework for the Societas Europaea European Company derives from Council Regulation (EC) No. 2157/2001 of 8 October 2001, and enables public limited-liability companies (plc) to carry on their business on a community scale. The addressees of this regulation are public limited-liability companies that already exist and have their seat in the EU Member States. This does not match very well the case of setting-up new research organisations in the Member States through a joint European effort.
The European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) derives from Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 and is a new cooperation instrument at Community level for the creation of cooperation groupings in Community territory. The objective of an EGTC is to facilitate and promote cross-border, transnational and/or interregional cooperation between its members with the exclusive aim of strengthening economic and social cohesion. The aims of an individual EGTC set up for research purpose may not necessarily coincide with the finality of the new RIs. Also non-European institutions can only become members of EGTC under certain conditions. These features are not a fit-all solution for setting-up pan-European research infrastructures.
Content of the Regulation The Primary task of the ERIC is to establish and operate a Research Infrastructure. This task has to be pursued on a non-economic basis. Limited economic activities are however possible.
Conditions for the Research Infrastructure:
- necessary for European research activities
- open to the European research community
- added value in the development of the European Research Area and significant improvement in relevant S&T fields
- contribution to mobility of knowledge/researchers in ERA
- contribution to the dissemination and optimisation of the results of the activities
- Member States
- Third countries
- Intergovernmental organisations
- An ERIC must at all times have at least three Member States as members.
- The ERIC decides on procedures for accepting new members. It has to provide fair conditions for other EU Member States to join.
- Member States must jointly hold the majority of the voting rights in the assembly of members.
- A state may be represented by one or more public entities or private entities with a public-service mission, e.g. research organisations or research councils.
- The statutory seat has to be located in an EU Member State or in a country associated to the Community research, technological development and demonstration programmes.
- Operations and further sites of the ERIC may be located either in or outside the EU.
- The members agree on the governance structure of the ERIC in the statutes.
- The structure has to include two mandatory bodies: a members’ assembly and either a director or a board of directors.
- Members' liability is limited to their committed contributions. There is no capital requirement.
- Members may specify in the statutes a fixed liability above their respective contributions or unlimited liability.
- If members' liability is unlimited, appropriate insurance to cover any risks of the construction and operation has to be taken by the ERIC.
Law applicable to the internal functioning of an ERIC:
- Community law, in particular the ERIC Regulation
- the law of the state where the ERIC has its statutory seat
- the statutes, adopted in conformity with the sources of law referred to above, and any implementing rules complying with its statutes
Public procurement procedures, VAT and excise duty:
- ERICs will not be bound by the procedures of the Public Procurement Directive but may set their own procurement rules based on transparency, non-discrimination and competition. This follows from Article 7.3 of the ERIC Regulation, according to which an ERIC is an international organisation within the meaning of the Public Procurement Directive ¹.
- ERICs will also be exempted from paying VAT and excise duty because each ERIC will be recognised as an international body/organisation for the purposes of the Directives on VAT ² and excise duty ³ by the country hosting its seat.
The LHC Computing Grid needs computing resources to process and analyse the data gathered by the LHC experiments, aided by the experiments themselves, by assembling multiple inter networked computer centres in a shared grid-like manner, the LCG project secures its offline data-storage and computing resources. It has been found useful to classify the computer centres functionally in Tiers. Tier0 is at CERN. It receives the raw and other data from the Experiments’ online computing farms and records them on permanent mass storage. It also performs a first-pass reconstruction of the data. The raw and reconstructed data are distributed to the Tier1 Centres. Tier1 Centres provide a distributed permanent back-up of the raw data, permanent storage and management of data needed during the analysis process, and offer a grid-enabled data service. They also perform data-intensive analysis and re-processing, and may undertake national or regional support tasks, as well as contribute to Grid Operations Services. Tier2 Centres provide well-managed, grid enabled disk storage and concentrate on tasks such as simulation, end-user analysis and high-performance parallel analysis.
Parties in the non-binding MoU, apart from CERN, are the national institutions participating in the provision of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid with a Tier1 and/or Tier2 computing centre (including federations of such institutions) or their Funding Agencies. The technical participation of the institutions is defined in terms of Computing Resource Levels that they pledge to provide to one or more of the LHC Experiments, and Service Levels that they pledge to the common collaboration, with in both cases secured the necessary funding. Such an approach may also be considered in the framework of an ERIC by formulating the required arrangement in its Statutes or subsidiary legal document.
development: this activity is pursued to produce new solutions to specific problems, i.e inventions (new products, processes, methods,….), by using existing knowledge. This activity, if applied to business-related activities, has a higher probability to produce some economic returns to investors, albeit risky. This risk is recognized by the international trade agreements which allow public support up to the level of 50% of the costs incurred.
Innovation: successfully improves existing solutions in any specific field. If an innovation is made in business activities its success should make it economically self-sustaining, and any State subsidy should be limited to 25% of the costs incurred. Innovations are rarely connected only to S&T, but often to other aspects as, e.g. finance, marketing, organization,……
research: this activity produces new knowledge, i.e. discoveries (to be new, the knowledge must be previously unknown). These results of research are largely unpredictable, and this, in turn, means that direct economic return to the investor is very rare, but it is also true (and proven) that, in the longer run and “somewhere”, research results are going to be used (but mainly not by their producers). The availability of the Research results in the common environment is, therefore, a social asset. This fact is recognized by the industrial competition rules at international level (ref/link international trade agreements ) which allow 100% public support in terms of contributions to the costs incurred for Research activities.