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Scientific Large-scale Infrastructure for Computing/Communication Experimental Studies - Design Study

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SLICES-DS (Scientific Large-scale Infrastructure for Computing/Communication Experimental Studies - Design Study)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2021-08-31

Digital Infrastructures as the future Internet, constitute the cornerstone of the digital transformation of our society. As such, innovation in this domain represents an industrial need, a sovereignty concern, and a security threat. Without Digital Infrastructure, none of the advanced services envisaged for our society is feasible. They are both highly sophisticated and diverse physical systems but at the same time, they form even more complex, evolving, and massive virtual systems. Their design, deployment, and operation are critical. In order to research and master Digital infrastructures, the research community needs to address significant challenges regarding their efficiency, trust, availability, reliability, range, end-to-end latency, security, and privacy. Although some important work has been done on these topics, the stringent need for a scientific instrument, a test platform to support the research in this domain is an urgent concern. Recently selected to be part of the 2021 ESFRI Roadmap, SLICES ambitions to provide a European-wide test platform, providing advanced compute, storage, and network components, interconnected by dedicated high-speed links. This will be the main experimental collaborative instrument for researchers at the European level, to explore and push further, the envelope of the future digital infrastructures. A strong, although fragmented, expertise exists in Europe and could be leveraged to build it. SLICES is our answer to this need. It is ambitious, practical but overall timely and necessary.

In this context, the main objective of SLICES-DS is to adequately design SLICES-RI in order to strengthen the research excellence and innovation capacity of European researchers and scientists in the design and operation of Digital Infrastructures. To do so, the SLICES-DS consortium identified five main objectives that structure the overall work plan:
1. To adequately design SLICES in order to strengthen research excellence and innovation capacity of European researchers and scientists in Digital Infrastructures;
2. To accomplish preparatory work and planning of the new Research Infrastructure;
3. To define governance, management and human resources of the new Research Infrastructure;
4. To define models for the financing of the new Research Infrastructure;
5. To define stakeholder and engagement strategy on community-based research.

The SLICES Design Study will build upon the experience of the existing core group of partners, to prepare in detail the conceptual and technical design of the new leading-edge SLICES-RI for the next phases of the RI's lifecycle. The activities carried out by SLICES-DS partners are implemented in close collaboration with the entire SLICES-RI consortium.
During this first reporting period, the SLICES-DS partners laid the foundation of the design of the future SLICES Research Infrastructure. Among the activities and results achieved so far, we can highlight that:
• An analysis of the technological status and capabilities of existing ICT Research Infrastructures and a survey on Research Infrastructure needs and requirements were carried out;
• Several workshops and consultations were held in order to identify the demand from the scientific communities involved;
• The consortium organized the first SLICES scientific workshop (3-4 March 2021);
• The first governance structure, including the possible types of legal entities, has been drafted as well a cost analysis, HR and in-kind policies;
• The EOSC interoperability framework has been analyzed and the SLICES interoperability framework has been proposed considering inter-connection with EOSC and frictionless data exchange;
• The first version of the metadata profiles for SLICES has been released;
• Both SLICES and SLICES-DS Data Management Plans have been published;
• 12 Expressions of Support from National Ministries have been already received and the consortium keeps looking for more financial commitment;
• Regarding the communication and dissemination aspects, the visual identity, the website and social media have been created and the engagement and communication strategy defined.

In addition to these first results, the partners have been working also on technical and strategic aspects such as the definition of the reference architecture, the service delivery and the potential use cases. Moreover, initial discussions on the roadmap for the implementation of the governance and sustainability have been launched.

During this first year, the partners keep communicating on the project's progress and results in order to guarantee the continuous engagement of the stakeholders and to enlarge the overall SLICES community. Several new contacts have been established with various stakeholders.
The main expected result of the project will be the release of the SLICES conceptual design report, at the end of the project. This document aims to confirm the technical and conceptual feasibility and will gather the results and conclusions of the different project activities as well as the recommendations for the next RI preparation phase.

At a global level, the project targets to contribute to the following impacts:
• Identify the relevant stakeholders of the design of conceptual architecture of the proposed RI, and include SLICES-RI in the national and ESFRI road mapping activities;
• Define the strategies for engagement with the road mapping activities and the wider RI landscape;
• Reach the decision and policy makers, user communities and all relevant stakeholders to allow policy bodies to establish the future roadmaps of RIs;
• Contribute to the key scientific challenges for the European Research Area, considering aspects such as experimentally driven approach and data-driven, mandatory for educating future talents, scientific performance and industrial competitiveness.
• Promote and/or to favor any action that could contribute to improve the environmental impact of the RI and also to work towards the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, for instance providing a tool to develop and design new "energy harvesting" solutions;

The project has also defined a series of additional impacts, expected to be reached by the end of the project:
• Strengthen the competitiveness and growth of companies, by providing demonstrations, assessments, knowledge, tools and services to the stakeholders in the value chains;
• Contribute to the competitiveness of the digital ecosystem and socio-economic impacts, by providing smaller scale stakeholders and spin-offs, a testing facility;
• Contribution to the development of the local economy and innovation environment, by providing a global interconnection infrastructure between different facilities;
• Contribution to European and global standards, thanks to the expected tangible results from the platform that can be used for opting in/out proposed contributions to standards;
• Impact on education, thanks to the introduction and use of the RI in the educational process.
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