Brussels, 25 April 2002
Research infrastructures: the Commission launches a European Strategy Forum
Synchrotrons, ultra high-intensity lasers or particle accelerators: infrastructures play a fundamental role in European research. The mission of the new "European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures" set up by the Member States of the Union on the initiative of the Commission is to provide a multidisciplinary platform open to all EU countries to monitor the needs expressed by the scientific community on an on-going basis. The inaugural meeting is taking place today in Brussels. The infrastructures include major installations as well as supercomputers for biocomputing, GRID-type(1) architectures for scientific cooperation, databases for social sciences, virtual libraries or networks of ecological reserves for biodiversity. The Forum will be an incubator for European or multinational projects with the aim of developing new research infrastructures in Europe. It comprises representatives of the 15 Member States appointed by the Research Ministers and directly responsible for science policy in their own countries.
Commenting on the creation of the Strategy Forum, the Member of the Commission responsible for research, Philippe Busquin declared: "The creation of this Forum marks a new step in the construction of the European Research Area. As essential tools at the service of the scientific community, research infrastructures are at the heart of tomorrow's scientific and technological developments. These infrastructures are a meeting point for researchers from the various European countries, whether they have an academic or industrial background, and a natural focus for cooperation and exchanges. In this sense, they constitute an important element in structuring and integrating the European scientific community, in the spirit of the European Research Area."
Europe has had outstanding successes in the past in terms of a collective approach to planning, constructing and operating major research infrastructures. Multinational agencies such as CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research)(2), ESA (European Space Agency)(3), ESO (European Southern Observatory)(4), EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory)(5) have amply demonstrated their ability to involve European countries in this area.
Thus the ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility)(6) in Grenoble, the VLT (Very Large Telescope)(7) of the ESO in Chile or the LHC (Large Hadron Collider)(8) at CERN in Geneva are all world leaders contributing to the excellence and reputation of European science.
However, the increasing numbers of disciplines and types of infrastructures required and of potential partners (private sector, candidate countries) have made it more and more difficult to deal with this subject at European level. The choices between maintaining or closing down, improving research infrastructures or creating new ones, have become increasingly complex. In recent years, the decision-making processes have slowed. It is therefore necessary to promote a coherent European science policy on research infrastructures. The Forum will endeavour to meet this requirement.
For more information:
(1) GRID: The internet of tomorrow with broadband networks and supercomputers with a high data storage capacity, the whole managed on a decentralised basis by scientists.