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Expanding research infrastructure visibility to strengthen strategic partnerships

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RI-VIS (Expanding research infrastructure visibility to strengthen strategic partnerships)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2020-07-31

Research Infrastructures are critical hubs of innovation; providing state-of-the-art resources, services and expertise to scientists and making science happen.

Global challenges like pandemics or climate change demonstrate the dire need for international coordination of scientific research. Research Infrastructures provide such coordination by offering access to key facilities, resources and expertise to empower research driven by scientific excellence and beyond the individual research capacity of different countries, economic sectors, or institutions.

Yet their full potential is not exploited, given the limited awareness by the global research community of the opportunities these RIs provide. Lack of visibility of research infrastructures is also an issue for other key stakeholders who may not be aware of the innovation and socio-economic benefits research infrastructures bring to society.

RI-VIS works to increase the visibility of research infrastructures to new and broader scientific communities, industry, policy-makers and the public within Europe and globally.

To achieve this RI-VIS helps research infrastructures to form sustainable global partnerships and collaborations with researchers and organisations. We want to democratise research and increase the access to services and expertise for researchers.

RI-VIS will hold three major bi-regional symposia bringing together scientists, funders, and policy makers to discuss opportunities for collaboration. The symposia will be held online but focussed around Africa-Europe (February 2021), Latin America-Europe (June 2021), and Australia-Europe (Late 2021) bi-regional themes. Each bi-regional partnership presents different challenges and opportunities, which will be addressed in these symposia, and in complementary regionally focussed white-papers.

RI-VIS is developing new tools and resources to make it easier for research infrastructures to communicate and collaborate. RI-VIS has published its Communication Toolkit (https://zenodo.org/record/3701172) and other resources online to assist those who are involved in outreach, partnering or communication roles in research infrastructures. RI-VIS offers an opportunity for sharing of best practices between staff in European and non-European infrastructures through a variety of activities. A community of research infrastructure communication experts has been established to share best practices and experiences. Join at https://ri-vis.eu/network/rivis/slack
RI-VIS has performed initial work analysing the international research infrastructure landscape. By working closely with the RISCAPE project, which mapped the international research infrastructure landscape, RI-VIS has identified target regions for increased international cooperation with infrastructures in Europe. The prioritised regions were Africa, Latin America and Australia. Each region presents different opportunities and challenges for research infrastructure collaboration. By conducting a series of interviews with experts and stakeholders, RI-VIS has produced recommendations and guidelines for cooperation between Africa and Europe in a white paper to be published in 2020. Similar papers will be produced for Latin America and Australia.

In addition to the white papers there will be three major bi-regional symposia held in 2021. These events will be hosted virtually in coordination with local champions from the host region. The program for the first symposium in February 2021 (postponed from March 2019) is nearing completion and includes contributions from high-profile speakers from research infrastructures, funders, ministries and agencies in the two regions. By gathering these fundamental stakeholders the event hopes to build new bi-regional relationships and collaborations and jointly tackle barriers to future cooperation.

RI-VIS has produced resources to help research infrastructures to better engage with stakeholder groups. Firstly RI-VIS has analysed the ARIA (Access to Research Infrastructure Administration) software suite to identify areas which can be of benefit to engaging communities. ARIA is already in use by many research infrastructures, projects and facilities in Europe. The key area highlighted for development to support the RI-VIS objectives was the community content management system which was refactored and reimagined to make it easier to use and more responsive and mobile friendly. The advantage of this tool over other website-builders is that is can seamlessly integrate research infrastructure data sources e.g. events and open calls for joint activities, via new ARIA APIs.

Communication experts from 17 research infrastructures contributed to build a communications toolkit, by conducting a SWOT+PESTLE analysis to identify and prioritise the needs of the research infrastructures from the toolkit. The toolkit was then developed through three workshops. A close collaboration with the ERIC Forum, a strategic community of European research infrastructures with ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) legal status, was exploited to ensure relevance to a broad range of RIs and to ensure the toolkit can be sustainably maintained beyond the end of RI-VIS. The toolkit, published in document form in March 2020, challenges both managers and communication experts to rethink how they communicate their organizations. It is a first step to elevate and harmonize communications in research infrastructures across Europe. The toolkit, available from Zenodo or the RI-VIS website (https://ri-vis.eu/network/rivis/download/?file=RI-VIS+Communication+Toolkit.pdf&do=do) has been downloaded over 600 times. To ensure the longevity of the toolkit it is being adapted to an online format to allow it to be easily kept updated using the ARIA content management system developed within RI-VIS. The toolkit and other RI-VIS produced resources, such as a portal of research infrastructure services and analysis of research infrastructure communication channels, are included on the RI-VIS resources page at https://ri-vis.eu/network/rivis/resources alongside curated resources from other sources useful for Research Infrastructures looking to engage new partners.
Development work to improve the ARIA research infrastructure software platform for new communities has already been piloted by a pioneering effort of UK universities to provide protein reagents relating to COVID-19 to the UK research community to expedite research efforts combating COVID-19. The application portal accessible at https://portal.covid19proteinportal.org/ uses the new ARIA content management system also intended for RI-VIS use to provide a simple user interface to select and apply for reagents. Databases of reagents themselves, and the application forms, are sent and received by APIs. This work therefore has an indirect contribution to research efforts to better understand the viral structure, pathology, and to develop treatments. Additionally, it is easy to see that improved collaboration and integration of international actions tackling the important challenges of the day with those in Europe benefits progress as a whole and can have a significant impact on measures of global socioeconomic health and wealth. Starting in the three regions first identified, RI-VIS will initiate a method for fostering interactions that is translatable to many international communities and applicable to diverse global issues.