Ignacio Blanquer, professor at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), is a member of the EOSC Association Board of Directors. Ignacio also leads the work on capacity building for thematic services of the EOSC Synergy project and has contributed to a study on the Spanish EOSC landscape which was published by the project last summer.
We interviewed Ignacio in his capacity as EOSC Association director with the intention to understand the relevance and impact of the Spanish research infrastructure landscape for the EOSC, and how he sees Spanish participation in the EOSC. Our interview contributes to a series of similar interviews with other EOSC Association directors by EOSC Pillar and other regional EOSC projects.
We asked Ignacio why, in his opinion, the involvement of national Open Science initiatives is essential at the current stage for the development of EOSC.
“The building of EOSC requires the involvement of a widespread set of actors at the national level. In the case of Spain, for example, I see two reasons why Spanish Open Science initiatives should participate in the EOSC now. From a top-down perspective there are already many Open Science initiatives both at the national and regional level which involve and can reach out to many actors, so the involvement of those initiatives is crucial to maximise the impact. From a bottom-up perspective, the experiences of national and regional initiatives, and the data and services they comprise, are key to build EOSC.
Spanish institutions have taken a number of very relevant steps in the field of Open Science in 2020. The Spanish Strategy on Science, Technology and Innovation 2013-2020 is the RDI policy for the state administration and regions, sharing vision with the Europe2020 strategy, Innovation Union Flagship, and Horizon 2020, addressing key actions in close connection to the goal of Open Science:
- To strengthen strategic planning and coordination of the Spanish Landscape of Research Infrastructures (RIs), included in the ESFRI Roadmap and in the Map of Singular Scientific and Technological Infrastructures (ICTS) through the Council of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Policy and its Executive Commission;
- To promote e-Infrastructures and data sharing;
- To strengthen R&D Institutions for developing or improving their data infrastructures;
- To promote open access to publication and public funded research results, adopting measures, and shared standards at all levels of administrations and research institutions.”
We are curious to learn which elements are required to prompt an EOSC in practice.
“EOSC is a multidisciplinary concept that requires FAIR data, production-quality services, and e-Infrastructures. Data without services and e-Infrastructures to process them would limit its value, and EOSC is a great opportunity to boost reproducible science, providing environments where experiments can be reproduced and verified. Therefore, in my opinion, EOSC should foster the release of open FAIR data, stimulate the release of open high-quality, efficient, and production-ready services and provide seamless environments linked to e-infrastructures. For example, EOSC Synergy wants to contribute with best practices for software quality and scientific thematic services running on top of services from the EOSC Portal marketplace.”
Ignacio continued by informing us about the role that researchers and technologists need to play in EOSC.
“Researchers are at the top of the EOSC initiative. In the EOSC working group on training and skills, I made a proposal of roles of actors on EOSC that was extensively discussed and enriched and forms part of the final report of this group. In this study, researchers are the main target as they are both contributors and consumers of data and services. In such work we identified more actors and outlined the role of the EOSC Enabler, as a “champion” that can act as a bridge between technologists and the scientific community, providing requirements, adopting best practices, leading training, etc. Technologists are also key to guarantee the accessibility and processing of the data. Scientific software requires the involvement of technologists to adopt EOSC best practices and increase robustness, efficiency, and security. Again, EOSC is a highly multidisciplinary environment in which collaboration from multiple areas is needed.”
We then asked how he would convince the infrastructure managers to participate in EOSC.
“In EOSC Synergy we are managing ten thematic services. All of them require, on one hand, storage and processing capacity, and on the other hand, services for AAI management, data and metadata storage and access, data registration and discovery, and processing back-end management. Every service has gone through a process of requesting resources from e-Infrastructures. In a scenario where research infrastructures are providing at no cost, infrastructure manages have to find a way to support the operation of the services. We need mechanisms to give this support to guarantee that the resources will be available. It is crucial that at least researchers acknowledge the use of such resources so they can prove the relevance of their effort.”
Are there any specific guidelines for service providers, and incentives for those who adopt open science principles and collaborate with the EOSC mission?
“From what I have seen, there are no clear guidelines yet in Spain in the context of EOSC for service providers, except for the experience in distributed computing and the EOSC marketplace, which is very valuable. Principles based on quality, availability, robustness or trustworthiness should also be considered.
With respect to the incentives to Open Science practices, more work is needed. Apart from recommendations and some obligations for publications, most researchers who openly share data, software, knowledge and services do so based on their own principles or aiming at higher visibility. Accreditation programs for researchers should include the release of open datasets and open software as the same level of open publications, and quality assessment mechanisms must be implemented.”
Zooming in on Spain, we were curious to learn whether, according to Ignacio, the EOSC Association will have a significant impact on Spanish organisations.
“We expect that the EOSC Association will be a gathering point for the researchers in the field, whose work is multidisciplinary and complex. By participating in the EOSC Association, we expect that the Spanish institutions will be able to get more information, actively participate in the advisory groups and benefit from the high-level services that will be coordinated by the EOSC Association.”
Ignacio also contributed to the EOSC Synergy landscape analysis in Spain. We asked him if he would like to highlight some or mention how Spanish organisations which are not formally project partners contribute to the EOSC Synergy objectives.
“Indeed, we leveraged the connections of the partners of the consortium to increase the impact of the activities of EOSC Synergy. For example, we got the support of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation for reaching out to other partners in the landscaping activities, and some members of the thematic services of EOSC Synergy are involved in other projects such as EOSC-Life, or ESFRIs such as INSTRUCT, ELIXIR and EIRENE. Those synergies will help on increasing the relevance of the thematic services, as an example.”
Landscape analyses are, by nature, temporary snapshots. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic being of great impact, we are wondering if, and how, it has affected the open science landscape in Spain?
“The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way of work in different directions, increasing the relevance of tools and services for remote access and interaction. Domains such as ICT have been boosted by the new needs arising with the pandemic. Other research activities based on instrumentation and experiments that could not be managed remotely have been slightly affected during the lockdown periods. At this time, funds in research have not been reduced, but priorities have been shifted towards health crises.“
The organisation at national level is complex and requires a higher-level umbrella. National institutions can help connect local entities with the broader scope of the EOSC. The multidisciplinary and granularity of the ecosystem at the national level makes the role of national institutions a key to success. How is Spain anticipating to this?
“In Spain we have created the Spanish Network for e-Science, which brings together e-Infrastructures, major research performing organizations and research funding entities. This could be the way to shape the needs at the different levels.”
We thank Ignacio for answering our questions. Curious to read more about the EOSC Association? Visit the website: https://www.eosc.eu.
Interviews with other members of the Board of Directors are available on the website of EOSC Pillar, EOSC Nordic and EOSC Secretariat.