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MERIL-2 MAPPING OF THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE LANDSCAPE

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MERIL-2 (MERIL-2 MAPPING OF THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE LANDSCAPE)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

The MERIL-2 project aims to create an authoritative, comprehensive online source of information on European Research Infrastructures (RIs) of more than national relevance. It addresses the work programme priorities of promoting the development and coordination of policies and access to information on RIs across countries and scientific disciplines. MERIL-2 builds on the successful development of the original MERIL project and research infrastructures mapping exercise initiated by the European Science Foundation (ESF) membership. MERIL-2 aims to achieve step changes in terms of: the comprehensiveness of RIs identified in the portal from 900 to 1200+ and the full publication of those identified from 500 to 800; the utility of the portal in terms of functionalities, analytical capacity and intermediation; stakeholder value in terms of policy relevant data including financial and human resource dimensions and coverage of RI mapping processes in a standardized form. These objectives will be met through a synergistic partnership of three organisations; European Science Foundation (ESF), the Greek National Documentation Centre (EKT-NHRF) and Agency for the Promotion of Research (APRE), that harnesses the complementary strengths of advanced portal design, European member state communication systems and deep knowledge of the RI landscape and data acquisition requirements under the guidance of an expert advisory committee. On a practical level, the approach will include redesign of the portal with enhanced functionalities, expert/ESFRI and National Data Intermediaires (NDIs) consultations on policy data needs and parameters, a complementary review of RI data policies and strategies and policies including implications of policy data provision and resourcing a publishing completion function for non-responsive RIs.

The conclusions of the action were the following:
- An open access database was built, holding 750 published RI records and 1042 identified RIs (short of the set milestones)
- Data was researched and acquired through NDIs, desk and online research, and RI self-submissions, resulting in a coverage of 32 European countries
- Data was refined, cleaned, and standardised through the introduction of a controlled vocabulary, set compulsory and non-compulsory data modules, and comprehensive definitions of RI categories and relevant terms
- Portal functionalities were enhanced through search filters, maps, and two data visualisation tools
- Stakeholders were engaged through conferences, workshops, newsletters, social media, and a dedicated outreach page.
Since the beginning of the project, the MERIL-2 consortium has performed an in-depth assessment of the content and quality of the previous MERIL portal in order to identify weaknesses and define the improvements needed. An extensive stakeholders consultation that included national authorities, research funding agencies representatives, policy makers and representatives of the RI community was conducted during the first six months in order to identify priorities and data collection strategies as well as confirm the feasibility of the planned approach within MERIL-2. As a result, a new data model, fully based on the CERIF (Common European Research Information Format) standard was designed and implemented onto a new IT portal. The data model is structured around three main modules containing core, additional and advanced information which reflect the priority and type of information addressing different stakeholder groups’ needs and taking into account the availability of such information.
The definitions and the eligibility criteria for inclusion of RIs into the MERIL database have been revised and clarified as to allow for easier assessment and check of entries. All the relevant documentation was made publicly available on the portal.
The data from the previous MERIL portal were successfully migrated onto the new IT platform and a thorough data quality check was performed, leading to the cleansing and formatting of information for over 500 Research Infrastructures entries.
In parallel, the network of National data Intermediaries (NDIs) covering 30 EU and H2020 Associated Countries was renewed and updated leading to the completion of national RI MERIL eligible lists over 50% of the countries. The collection of the input from the remaining countries is in progress.
The MERIL-2 team has established links and communications channels with a number of European and international initiatives and projects dealing with RI policy, road mapping and international collaboration ( StrESFRI, InRoad, RISCAPE, RITrain, OECD Global Science Forum, eInfraCentral, RICH, Science Europe RI Working Group, etc. ).

In the second reporting period, the portal functionalities were expanded, the data collection increaseds, and the data models populated with data, resulting in 750 published entries. Several initiatives within the RI community contacted the MERIL office in order to obtain data included in MERIL, specific analysis or engage in a collaboration, such as STFC (UKRI), the Australian Data Research Commons, EOSC-Hub, and ERRIS. Most of the enquiries concerned provision of data included in MERIL within a specific research field, support or advice in setting up a thematic database based on our experiences. A key aspect driving these collaborations was the need to reduce duplication of efforts and redundancies in RI reporting and respective data collection.
In the second half of the MERIL-2 project the main focus will be on increasing the coverage and data completion for RI entries across European countries and scientific disciplines with the objective to further populate the database with new and up-to date information. A major effort will be directed towards the identification of new eligible RI entries through existing sources such as national roadmaps, thematic RI networks and projects.

MERIL-2 will strive to continue to act as a driver for the progressive harmonisation of RI data collection practices at the European level and internationally by engaging in deeper collaborations and information exchanges with relevant policy stakeholders but also at the practical implementation level. As such, the MERIL platform plans to develop into an online information hub and dissemination platform that provides standardised data sets to a variety of stakeholders but can also respond to specific requests. MERIL team will therefore also propose services such as data analysis, benchmarking and statistical overviews to policy makers, national authorities, RI managers or researchers who need evidence for better planning, monitoring and networking of RI resources in Europe.

At project end, MERIL's sharing of its data model and standardised vocabulary have resulted in 1) policy impact (standardised benchmarks for evaluating national and international RI landscapes); 2) data management impact (collaborations to reduce data duplication and render databases interoperable); 3) societal impact (increased availability for RI users in both locating and accessing RIs previously uncatalogued); 4) economic impact (through the availability of landscaping tools and the harnessing of MERIL data to projects highlighting RI services and impact assessment).