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Expanding research infrastructure visibility to strengthen strategic partnerships

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RI-VIS (Expanding research infrastructure visibility to strengthen strategic partnerships)

Reporting period: 2020-08-01 to 2022-01-31

Research Infrastructures (RIs) are critical hubs of innovation, providing state-of-the-art resources, services and expertise to scientists to support excellent science. Global challenges like pandemics or climate change demonstrate the need for international coordination of scientific research and a level of coordination to access key facilities, resources and expertise and to empower research driven by scientific excellence beyond the individual research capacity of different countries, economic sectors, or institutions.

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

RI-VIS worked to increase the visibility of RIs to new and broader scientific communities, industry, policy-makers and the public within Europe and globally. To achieve this RI-VIS helped RIs to form sustainable global partnerships and collaborations with researchers, organisations and other stakeholders in order to democratise research, increase access for researchers and benefit society at large.

RI-VIS connected with new communities via three major bi-regional symposia bringing together scientists, funders, and policy makers to discuss opportunities for collaboration. The symposia, held virtually, focussed on Africa-Europe (February 2021), Latin America-Europe (June 2021), and Australia-Europe (October 2021) bi-regional themes. Each bi-regional partnership presented and addressed different challenges and opportunities and were complemented by regionally focussed white-papers, framing the objectives and context for each symposium.

In parallel, RI-VIS also developed a community of communications professionals in the RIs and together codeveloped resources to improve and unify the way RIs communicate their mission and their value. This community is currently hosted on a dedicated slack workspace and includes over 400 active members.
RI-VIS developed new tools and resources to make it easier for RIs to communicate and collaborate. These tools include:

- Communication Toolkit (toolkit.ri-vis.eu and https://zenodo.org/record/4965324) Communication strategy guide (https://zenodo.org/record/4090929);
- White papers of region-specific recommendations for collaboration of research infrastructures (https://zenodo.org/record/4965324);
- Complementary communication guidelines for engagement with African (https://zenodo.org/record/5793442) and Latin American (https://zenodo.org/record/5793657) countries;
- Template Memorandum of understanding for Research infrastructures to use as a model for a formalisation of relationships with international partners (https://ri-vis.eu/download/?file=RI-VIS+Memorandum+of+Understanding+template.docx);
- RI-VIS resources page at https://ri-vis.eu/network/rivis/resources providing curated resources useful for Research Infrastructures looking to engage new partners.

RI-VIS developed a new community content management system Sitebuilder, an easy-to-use website-maker connected to RI data sources from within the ARIA software. ARIA is already in use by many RIs, projects and facilities in Europe, and the new Sitebuilder microservice has been used for an emergency COVID-19 protein portal to provide access to COVID-19 related proteins and reagents for pandemic research, to host the online version of the RI-VIS communication toolkit, and will be used for the ERIC Forum project toolbox.

The three bi-regional symposia included contributions from high-profile speakers from RIs, funders, ministries and agencies in the regions and by gathering these key stakeholders, the events seeded new and consolidated existing bi-regional relationships and collaborations. Across the three events more than 1000 attendees participated with a good balance between European and non-European attendees, speakers and panellists. Building on this successful symposium model, a 4th event was organised in collaboration with the CREMLINplus project between European and Russian Federation RIs in November 2021. Current events make it impossible to continue this collaboration but opportunities in the future will be considered as events progress.
RI activities have multidimensional impact on regional and international actions tackling the important challenges of the day, with consequent impact on measures of global socioeconomic health and wealth. Starting in the three regions identified in the workplan, RI-VIS demonstrated methods for fostering interactions that are translatable to many international communities and applicable to diverse global issues.

The approach, with the tools and resources developed in RI-VIS, established a paradigm for engagement that was broadly acceptance by many regional networks, including stand-alone institutions and other EU projects. The impact rippled to further communities by collateral engagement via CatRIS, Life Science Research Infrastructure Cluster (LS RI) and other RI third parties.

In a specific example, the ARIA Sitebuilder developed within RI-VIS was piloted by a pioneering effort of UK universities to provide COVID-19 protein reagents to the UK research community to expedite research efforts during the pandemic. The application portal used the new ARIA content management system which provides a simple user interface to select and apply for reagents. Databases of reagents themselves, and the relevant application forms, were 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 and provides a model for translation into new applications.

The overall success of the RI-VIS was tested and measured through Kick-Start projects of 6 months duration between European RIs and international collaborators, aiming to increase international visibility and use of European RI resources. From these 4 Kick-Start projects and other activities to establish partnerships within the RI-VIS project, outcomes included i) establishing 3 Memoranda of Understanding with new partners (one further still in process), ii) Material Transfer Agreements between European and international RIs, iii) standardisation and interoperability in work practices between RIs, all of which are tangible benefits of the strategic outreach programme developed by RI-VIS.

The RI-VIS project, through its outreach programme connected with more than 1000 people directly and possibly several fold more by indirect channels. We expect that this will continue to build, and we will continue to monitor interest in the toolkit and other resources as an indicator. It is too early to measure the endpoint impact of RI-VIS in augmenting collaborative actions across RIs. The societal impact will be relatively distant and difficult to identify amongst many other initiatives to do the same, but the potential is large. We are proud of the proof-of-concept methodology to improve RI visibility that RI-VIS pioneered.
Sample slide provided in RI-VIS Communication Toolkit to include in presentations