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Astroparticle and Oscillations Research with Cosmics in the Abyss (ARCA and ORCA)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - KM3NeT - INFRADEV (Astroparticle and Oscillations Research with Cosmics in the Abyss (ARCA and ORCA))

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2020-10-31

This project addressed the coordination and support actions to prepare a legal entity for KM3NeT (http://www.km3net.org/). KM3NeT is a distributed research facility hosting a network of neutrino telescopes deployed in the deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea which is pursued by a large international collaboration comprising about 250 persons from 15 different countries. The main objectives of the KM3NeT Collaboration are i) the discovery and subsequent observation of high-energy neutrino sources in the Universe and ii) the determination of the mass hierarchy of neutrinos. There are two countries that will each host part of the infrastructure (in the future this may become three), one country that developed a new cost-effective technology and a number of other countries that contribute key elements to the research infrastructure (e.g. human resources, components and computing). This deviates from the traditional picture in which a single host country takes the lead (strategically, financially and/or logistically) and invites other countries to join. Furthermore, the finances are being acquired from national, regional and other funding. The availability and constraints of these funds have led to a phased implementation (funding is secured for phase 1 and a significant fraction of the funds for phase 2 have been committed). Finally, there exists no umbrella organisation such as CERN (https://home.cern/) or ESO (https://www.eso.org/public/) for research facilities of this kind. In this context, a sustainable central organisation has been sought and an European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) has been identified as the preferred solution.

This project constituted a second preparatory phase for KM3NeT. It was carried out within the context of the KM3NeT Collaboration. The primary objective of this project was to establish a legal entity for the KM3NeT research infrastructure (i.e. a KM3NeT ERIC). The list of additional objectives of this project includes the preparations for various services that the KM3NeT Collaboration intends to provide, including open access to (future) data and to the deep sea infrastructure. With this project, a sustainable way of cooperation between KM3NeT and other science fields was prepared and the interaction with other telescopes strengthened.

In itself, this project carried no direct importance to society but it provided a basis to augment the impact of KM3NeT on society. KM3NeT is positioned in the heart of fundamental, curiosity driven, research. The harsh environment of the deep sea and the high cost of maintenance of the deep-sea infrastructure have been a driving force for design innovations. This project has provided for planned outreach and communication, a scheme for (bidirectional) transfer of technology & knowledge, a gender equality plan and a code of conduct and ethical behaviour for KM3NeT, which can also serve as example for other projects. The envisaged open access to (future) data and to the deep sea infrastructure that have been prepared through this project will provide invaluable opportunities for the wider astrophysics, astro particle physics and particle physics communities and other sciences such as oceanographic, marine biology and climate research. Within this project, the possibility to make KM3NeT a CO2-neutral research facility has been explored.
An ERIC working group was established, composed of representatives of the ministries of the countries participating in the KM3NeT - INFRADEV project. These are conveniently accompanied by science delegates. To establish a close link with the KM3NeT Collaboration also, the spokesperson of the KM3NeT Collaboration and the chairperson of the board of institutes are formally invited to the meetings of this working group.

Although there is a long standing consensus that KM3NeT should become a legal entity and that the ERIC is a suitable implementation thereof, the main challenge found was to convince the funding authorities (which should contribute the bulk of the human resources and finance the bulk of the operational costs) that the ERIC is timely. A sequence of formal and informal discussions between key persons in the ERIC working group and representatives from the funding authorities have taken place during the project. The outcome of these discussions has not led to the desired result that enough countries support the establishment of the KM3NeT ERIC at the time of this writing.

The project management board was composed of the work package leaders and the secretary of this project and met monthly by video and three times per year face-to-face during each KM3NeT Collaboration meeting (see photo). The coordinator of this project and -by invitation- one (or more) work package leaders regularly reported to the board of institutes of the KM3NeT Collaboration. The coordinator also reported to the whole KM3NeT Collaboration.

The project initiated an exchange program. In this, several experts in the field of science joined this program and thereby the KM3NeT Collaboration to exchange know-how. Furthermore, a workshop was organised in Marseille in December 2019 where external experts in the growing field of multi-messenger astronomy met with KM3NeT experts.
Since the project was not conducting research, progress beyond the state of the art was not expected but the progress in awareness and understanding of the ERIC policy, realized at the joint meetings are beyond what was expected at the start of the project.

To overcome the inaccessibility of the deep sea, various 3D animations of the deep sea research infrastructure have been developed including a cool VR animation. Also, various activities together with artists have been conducted. These activities stimulate the general awareness of (the vulnerability of) the deep sea, the interplay between fundamental research and industry and the values of fundamental research.

Through this project, KM3NeT actively contributed to discussions on gender equality and diversity and interacts with other research projects about the code of conduct and ethical behaviour. As an example, a gender equality plan and a code of conduct and ethical behaviour have been prepared which were subsequently adopted by the KM3NeT Collaboration. Corresponding flyers have been made which were distributed to all members of the KM3NeT Collaboration and will be presented to all newcomers as well (see figure). Data on the composition of committees, contributions to conferences, etc. are systematically collected. Personal feedback is regularly obtained from the members of the KM3NeT Collaboration in real time interactive Q/A sessions during meetings using designated apps. Eventually, these data and feedback can complement other data from industry, NGO’s, etc.

Finally, the idea of a making KM3NeT a CO2-neutral research facility has matured. This could represent a cost saving for the operation of KM3NeT. It could also set an example for other projects.
Another possible solution to make KM3NeT a CO2 neutral research facility.
One possible solution to make KM3NeT a CO2 neutral research facility.
KM3NeT at the Hannover Messe, 24 - 28 April 2017