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ICRI 2014 REPORT: How research infrastructures can respond to global challenges

Athina Vrakatseli, project Dissemination and Sustainability leader and Head of Policy Development Unit at Gov2u, was present at ICRI 2014. The 2nd International Conference on Research Infrastructures (2-4 April 2014 - Megaron Athens International Conference Centre) managed to highlight how global research infrastructures can respond to the grand challenges that the world is facing today, what lessons have been learned from the past, and what the priorities and directions are for the future.


“Plenary Session 1: Research Infrastructures for Global Challenges” set the tone for the whole conference while the other sessions discussed specific examples of challenges that need to be tackled for both single-site and distributed global facilities.

Research Infrastructures (RIs) play an increasingly central role in the advancement of scientific and technological knowledge. They are key instruments in bringing together a wide diversity of stakeholders to look for solutions to many of the challenges society is facing today. “We need intelligent openness”, said Geoffrey Boulton, Regius professor of Geology, University of Edinburgh, The Royal Society, UK.


The e-Infrastructure session on day 2 (E-infrastructures: Sustainability and Business Models) was exciting with inspiring speakers and speeches. Emerging business models were discussed and possible policy solutions to the above challenges were identified listing their advantages and disadvantages, including new approaches, such as public- private partnerships and “pay-as-you-go” schemes. Many speakers mentioned that access to e-infrastructure should be open, inclusive and transparent.

The fact that e-science demands the development of new skills and professions was discussed during the e-infrastructures new professions and skills session later on. An international panel emphasized the cross- cutting challenges of the advancement of new skills and proposed tangible cooperation activities.  

Jean Moulin, General Advisor- Belgian Federal Science Policy Office Belgium, suggested developing ecosystems of innovation around RIs during “plenary Session 3: Innovation potential of Research Infrastructures”. While Dennis Tsichritzis said that technology push and innovation pull have to be combined.

“Why isn't research infrastructure a first -class priority?” asked Francine Berman, Council Co- Chair, Research Data Alliance, United States during the “Big Data Management” session. Ross Wilkinson, Executive Director- Australian National Data Service, argued that data infrastructure is more valuable if it is collaborative, reliable, available, interoperable, open and accessible. “Big data is not magic- it s all about value”, he said. The importance of trust was highlighted by Kostas Glinos, Head of Unit “Strategy, EFTA and enlargement countries, Russia, Asia and Pacific”, Directorate- General for Research and Innovation, European Commission. Many speakers agreed that clear guidelines and policies for the global scientific community and infrastructures operations have to be developed.

The third day of ICRI 2014was all about conclusions: RIs also depend on processes, procedures and agreements most importantly an efficient governance structure. Science is increasingly data driven: principles discoverable, accessible, understandable, manageable, skills and culture. In addition to a multi-lateral (global) approach, a multi- disciplinary approach combining technologies and sectors is needed. RIs facilitate innovation. There is a need for a shared vision and strategy for the long term sustainability, e.g. earth system observations, marine and arctic  RIs.

ICRI 2014 offered to its 700 international participants a high level international forum where key stakeholders met, discussed and contributed to bringing forward global issues related to Research Infrastructures.

A big thank you to the Greek hosts! See you in South Africa!

Follow iMENTORS on twitter to see all the tweets from the event!  



iMENTORS ( is an interactive resource, the first of its kind, to contain  information about all known e-infrastructures in Africa in the past five years. Launched for public use and input in July 2013 iMENTORS provides you with the necessary tool to visualise e-infrastructures and all related projects in Africa.

ICRI 2014: See the videos from speakers' interviews!

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EuropeLogo eInfastructure This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 313203
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