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European E-Infrastructure Services Gateway

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - eInfraCentral (European E-Infrastructure Services Gateway)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2019-06-30

eInfraCentral's mission was to ensure that, by 2020, a broader and more varied set of users, from research to industry, discover and access Europe’s e-infrastructure capacity. End-users (researchers, innovators, business) are often unaware of available e-infrastructure services that could help them in their work. Similarly, service and data providers often have difficulty reaching potential users. Even if users discover a service, it can be difficult to gather further information, or compare it with other existing services. Service providers also lack user feedback on ways they could improve their offerings. Taken together, this leads to fragmented or overlapping efforts as well as slower rates of open innovation. eInfraCentral was designed to address this challenge of fragmentation and help research community to discover services and resources for research. In addressing these challenges, eInfraCentral pursued three specific objectives.

Objective 1: Structure an open and guided discussion between e-Infrastructures to consensually define a common catalogue for their services
Objective 2: Develop a single entry point (one-stop shop) for end users to browse the service catalogue, and enhance the monitoring of key performance indicators that focus on availability and quality of services and user satisfaction
Objective 3: Draw policy and sustainability lessons for the future development of a European einfrastructure ‘market place’ as an extension of the common service catalogue and portal so that it includes a much broader range of e-infrastructures and services

eInfraCentral was, along with EOSC Pilot, the first of a portfolio of EOSC related projects. As the EOSC scene evolved so did the project, the European Commission described eInfraCentral in the 2018 EOSC Implementation Roadmap as one of the key building blocks of the EOSC Portal. Instead of focusing on developing a gateway for a single entry point, the Consortium integrated eInfraCentral’s all-inclusive catalogue of e-services and resources in the EOSC Portal. The eInfraCentral catalogue and the EOSC Portal catalogue provide the same list of services. The focus of the other three major outcomes of eInfraCentral, a harmonised service description template, a catalogue of services and a set of APIs, stayed unchanged.
The work was structured in 5 work packages, notably WP3 (Service Catalogue Alignment), WP4 (eInfraCentral Portal) and WP2 (e-Infrastructure Collaboration Activities). WP5 focused on outreach, dissemination and exploitation; and WP1 project management and coordination.

e-Infrastructure Collaboration Activities (WP2) focused on engaging and collaborating with the e-Infrastructure community as well as ESFRI projects and other research communities to involve these key stakeholders in an open dialogue. A survey of stakeholders identified as a ‘wider circle’ of e-Infrastructures, VREs and other RIs was conducted to get an idea about their preferences and requirements; and bilateral and collective communications and workshops took place with the five major European e-Infrastructures (GÉANT, PRACE, EUDAT and OpenAIRE) in order to develop the common service catalogue. Later these were further expanded to the stakeholders of EOSCpilot and EOSC-hub (the latter having emerged half-way through the eInfraCentral timeframe). A Global Initiatives Working Group was set up and gave feedback on how the project’s impact and benefit from lessons learned.

The main effort in reaching a consensus on a common catalogue of services took place under WP3. A pilot Service Description Template (SDT) was introduced in Spring 2017 detailing the aligned service catalogue together with a first attempt to an offline common service catalogue. Throughout the project lifetime the service descriptions were put into use by the flagship European e-Infrastructures, while other e-Infrastructures engaged and helped in the collection of additional service descriptions, requirements organisation blocks and classifications. Following the successful adoption of the SDT, Service Classification, and the launch of the eInfraCentral and EOSC Portal, the project consortium entered a Collaboration Agreement with OpenAIRE and EOSC-hub with the aim to reach a wider consensus on a Service classification and taxonomy, between a larger group of EOSC-related initiatives. This led to the SDT and Service Classification EOSC version 2.00.

WP4 activities revolved around the implementation and operation of the eInfraCentral & EOSC Catalogue, the underlying database and the corresponding APIs. It consisted: the implementation of the service catalogue and the development of monitoring mechanisms that enable the automatic population of service-related information in the portal from e-Infrastructures through RestFul APIs. These effectively provided aggregated and comparative views of the spectrum of European e-Infrastructures. WP4 was based on an agile and user-driver development process, with user assessment activities which provided feedback to each next release.

The results achieved by the eInfraCentral project are:
Key result 1: The widely adopted Service/Resource Description Template (SDT) and Service Classification
Key result 2: The First Catalogue for the European Open Science Cloud
Key result 3: The Application Programming Interfaces (API) for EOSC interoperability
Key result 4: Development of the EOSC Portal in cooperation with other EOSC-linked project EOSCpilot, EOSC-hub and OpenAIRE-Advance
Key result 5: “Build-your-own” EOSC-compatible catalogue of services using eInfraCentral’s open-source software
Key result 6: Development of the Rules of Participation for EOSC-compliant services and resources and in onboarding new service providers
Key result 7: Development of a set of user functional and non-functional requirements
Key result 8: Performance Monitoring Framework (KPIs)
Key result 9: A methodology for labelling Catalogue Maturity
Key result 10: EOSC portal logo and other dissemination activities
The development of the eInfraCentral Portal and alignment of the e-infrastructure service catalogues constituted a first and major step towards the development of EOSC. It helped bringing together the existing ‘building blocks’ to develop a comprehensive and smoothly interoperating and user-oriented EOSC. The work undertaken through eInfraCentral contributed to the process of technical alignment and enhanced user-friendliness of the services offered by the main e-infrastructures. The activities encouraged the improvement of services, adoption of common standards, while avoiding overlaps and identifying gaps. The definition of a common service catalogue will in the future generate opportunities for economies of scale. By broadening the range of users, the project has lowered entry barriers and enhance efficiency for research infrastructures and RPOs as well as industry. In the medium term, the eInfraCentral Portal should also have an impact on enhancing access to services for e.g. citizen-scientists in line with the open science agenda. The project has significantly contributed to an open, transparent and evidence-based dialogue on the future development of European e-infrastructures.
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