Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

ENVRI PLUS Report Summary

Project ID: 654182
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.4.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENVRI PLUS (Environmental Research Infrastructures Providing Shared Solutions for Science and Society)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Environmental and Earth System Research Infrastructures (RI) are key providers of services and data for the researchers working in the environmental challenges, They are in a key position to make it possible to answer the most pressing grand challenges facing humanity. They represent significant investments from the Member States and the European Union and their competitiveness is crucial to the innovation potential, resilience and attractiveness of the environmental research in the European Research Area.

ENVRI PLUS is a cluster project to support development and integration of the major European Environmental and Earth System RIs. The project supports creating more consistent products and services, making it possible for scientists to address cross and multidisciplinary environmental and societal challenges. Additionally, by co-designing common solutions technical and policy issues, ENVRI PLUS increases the cost-effectiveness and accessibility of the environmental Research Infrastructures.

The objective of ENVRI PLUS is to provide common solutions to shared challenges for European Environmental and Earth System RIs in their efforts to deliver new services for science and society. ENVRI PLUS brings together the current ESFRI roadmap environmental and associate fields RIs, leading I3 projects, key developing RI networks and specific technical specialist partners to build common synergic solutions for pressing issues in RI construction and implementation. ENVRIPLUS is organized along 6 main objectives:
1)  Improve the RI’s abilities to observe the Earth System, particularly in developing and testing new sensor technologies, harmonizing observation methodologies and developing methods to overcome common problems associated with distributed remote observation networks;
2)  Generate common solutions for shared information technology and data related challenges of the environmental RIs in data and service discovery and use, workflow documentation, data citations methodologies, service virtualization, and user characterization and interaction;
3)  Develop harmonized policies for access (physical and virtual) for the environmental RIs, including access services for the multidisciplinary users;
4)  Investigate the interactions between RIs and society: Find common approaches and methodologies how to assess the RIs’ ability to answer the economical and societal challenges, develop ethics guidelines for RIs and investigate the possibility to enhance the use Citizen Science approaches in RI products and services;
5)  Ensure the cross-fertilisation and knowledge transfer of new technologies, best practices, approaches and policies of the RIs by generating training material for RI personnel to use the new observational, technological and computational tools and facilitate inter-RI knowledge transfer via a staff exchange program;
6)  Create RI communication and cooperation framework to coordinate activities of the environmental RIs towards common strategic development, improved user interaction and interdisciplinary cross- RI products and services.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project results for the first 16 months of operations are concentrated on information collecting, planning, technical developments and first pilot exercises.

Practically all work packages, from the technical developments in Themes 1 and 2 to the communication and strategic work in Theme 6 have done some level of internal and external data collection, in the form of questionnaires, workshops or discussions. These are crucial results for the rest of the project as they define the initial state, inform on the key issues to develop within the project work and also act as the starting community of the research infrastructure development. As the ENVRIplus is based on the common development between the RIs and between the RIs and technical partners, this user based information collection is crucial for successful planning and project work. Of particular note are the community wide questionnaires or investigations on: observational technology development needs (WP3), operations and data systems maturity in the WP5 (see deliverable D5.1), finding out key grand challenges the RIs are solving in WP12, evaluating the ethical issues encountered in RI operations and geoethics in general in WP13 and collection of representative examples of Citizen Science methodologies in WP14. Similar smaller scale information collecting efforts have been done in practically all work packages.

Another activity has been planning for the main developments inside the project. Practically all work packages have now finished their initial planning phase and have started their work efforts.

However, not all efforts are only information collecting or planning. In all themes practical work towards the project Objectives have been ongoing: In Theme 1, several of the common observation technology developments are ongoing, particularly in the Use Case developments, on observation technologies in extreme locations, near-real-time data provision, and on development of more strategic management in observation networks. Theme 2, concentrating on data issues, has been extremely active on refining and further developing the ENVRI Reference Model - a key component in environmental RI design. Similarly, progress have been made on Virtual Research Environment testing, partially in collaboration with other RI projects, and on technical developments on computational performance enhancements in RIs. Particular activity on data cataloguing, particularly on selection of key metadata elements has been done in collaboration with Research Data Alliance. A set of realistic and useful Case Studies have been selected to validate the Theme 2 data services. New access methods to RIs have been investigated in Theme 3, using pilot cases on interdisciplinary access schemes for RIs. In Theme 5, Knowledge Transfer, particularly interesting activity has been the first instances of inter-RI staff exchange, which could have potential towards developing a common usable platform for effective knowledge transfer.

A key part of the project is the inter and intra project communications. Domain level workshops have been organized in the ENVRIplus weeks, answering to the need of special domain (e.g. marine) RI related challenges. The Board of Environmental Research Infrastructures (BEERi) has been extremely successful initiative towards creating independent and sustainable strategic collaboration panel between the RIs. The BEERi has specifically taken actions on important H2020 consultations, took a part in development of European Open Science Cloud initiative, facilitated inter-cluster collaboration, international collaboration and discussed infrastructure developments in H2020 and future FP8 organization. The communication activities also include development of ENVRI community platform, an initiative towards sustained long-term all-level (from users to technicians to RI coordinators) community building around the environmental RI sector. Founding of ENVRI community site and associated meetings have started this work in earnest 2016.

The project has also been extremely active in disseminating the project progress according to the Dissemination strategy, with active project and community websites, building close collaboration with RI communicators from the environmental domain, extensive use of social media, project newsletter, organization and participation in conferences and events and for an infrastructure project large number of publications.

Major part on the project's success is extremely good common working environment, particularly due to twice-a-year organized ENVRI week conferences, which collect all of the ENVRIplus communities and associated experts in a same location. These common meetings have been very useful in creating the ENVRI community and understanding of the need for doing development collaboratively.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Environmental research infrastructures provide invaluable tools, services and data products for the researchers and to the society. Their contribution to the long-term development of the environmental research domain and to the European Research Area are crucial. They are also in the centre of giving up-to-date information needed to solve the societal grand challenges connected to the environmental processes and services. The main impact of the ENVRIplus project comes from the benefits of development of these RIs in a consistent, common and cost-effective way. 

This ENVRIplus developments are needed for two main reasons: Common development of technologies, policies and skills enable more consistent RI products for the scientists and for the society, enabling far better integration of the RI products to solve major, often interdisciplinary  challenges. The common development has also potential of significant synergy benefits, creating far more cost-effective ways of improving the RI development and progress. As research infrastructures are major investments, this dual cost-benefit increase has potential for very large leverage effects on societal benefits. 

In these first stages of the project main results are connected to consistent collection of crucial information on the state of the RIs involved in the project and creating connections between the key personnel in the RIs. This information has immediate impact on the research infrastructures, their staff, RI funding agencies and to the societal users of the RI results. Research infrastructures themselves, when analysed in a consistent and comparable way, are now more aware of their own strengths, needs and potential synergies with other RIs, making their development and strategic plans more realistic. The RI staff benefits on this information collection and connection building by learning from the other RIs, sharing their knowledge and creating their own networks and ways to show their competencies. Also the public agencies and institutions funding the RIs benefit from this information, as it gives them an idea of the technical and policy capabilities and needs of the RIs, directing the development plans. Of particular note for this information collecting activities are the technical capabilities and needs documentation in the WP5.

The ENVRIplus data activities have an impact on the whole environmental domain. Standardization of data streams, data citation, processing and cataloguing have high potential to influence how data products are made, used and documented in the whole environmental sector. During the first 16 months, many of these products are not yet ready, but the level of commitment in the RIs to the common data policies and product development make the impact of these initiatives significant in the developing environmental data field. The ENVRIplus participates strongly in key international data-oriented initiatives, such as Research Data Alliance, ICSU CODATA and GEOSS, impacting the development of global environmental open data systems.

The pilot developments in ENVRIplus on cross-disciplinary access programmes and staff exchange have a high potential to impact the accessibility of the research infrastructures, and on the skill development of the RI operators. This together with more defined roles of the RI personnel in the ENVRI Reference model work, can create far more flexible and attractive career development and work environment on the research infrastructure field.

Additional important impact from the first 16 months of the project come from the extension and solidification of the BEERi collaboration between the RIs. Regardless of the high importance of the environmental research to the society, the environmental RI sector has been heterogeneous, unfocused and divided among the disciplinary boundaries. ENVRIplus has already gained significant advance on this field by acting as a platform for all of the environmental research infrastructure initiatives, from starting European networks to ESFRI landmark projects. The integration happens in two fronts: ENVRI community activities which work on all levels of RIs, and BEERi activities on strategic collaboration on the RI director level. Of these two, the BEERi has been more active during the first period, and has already been extremely successful in creating a single voice for the environmental research infrastructures. The societal impact of BEERi work comes from the participation to the key consultations, communications and  on behalf of the whole environmental RI sector. Of particular note, the BEERi has been active in participation on H2020 policy consultations in environmental and e-science domains, created better communication and collaboration of environmental research infrastructures with the Copernicus and GEO programmes and strongly participated on the development of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), e.g. by creating several key use cases for the EOSC pilot project. The cluster level collaboration has also created new interactions outside of the environmental domain, particularly with new initiatives with RIs from other ESFRI science areas. 

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