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EU launches open science cloud to take research data across borders, disciplines

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, has championed Open Science. Image courtesy of the European Commission

The EU has outlined its plans for a European Open Science Cloud that will bring together existing infrastructures and open up scientific data across disciplines and across Member States.

‘Science today is about collaboration,’ Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said during a press briefing on 19 April. ‘What’s the raw material for that collaboration? In my view that raw material is data.

‘Most of the data today is locked in literature, is locked in papers, and we have to unlock that data.’

It is part of a drive for open science championed by Commissioner Moedas under his Open Science, Open Innovation and Open to the World agenda.

While researchers can request to opt out if the data they are generating is commercially sensitive or raises privacy or national security concerns, the idea is to make all data resulting from Horizon 2020 grants open access as the default position starting in 2017, according to the principle 'as open as possible, as closed as needed'.

The first step in setting up the European Open Science Cloud is a call for proposals on how it can make research data and results available across existing infrastructures.

'We are starting with a call in Horizon 2020,’ Commissioner Moedas said. ‘That will be the start up, that will really be how we build it, so we will design the architecture through that call and then we will go on with the project.’

The project will indicate what data-related services are best provided to European scientists and what governance structure may be most suitable.

The European Open Science Cloud call was first announced by Commissioner Moedas in June 2015. It followed a statement earlier that year by research ministers from European Member States underlining the need for a European open science cloud and calling for a European open science strategy during a meeting of the EU’s Competitiveness Council.

The Open Science Cloud forms part of the European Cloud Initiative, an around EUR 6.7 billion plan that will combine an estimated EUR 2 billion from Horizon 2020 with additional public and private investment to set up the science cloud and deploy supercomputing capacity and fast connectivity to build a new European Data Infrastructure.

Most powerful computer

The idea for the infrastructure is by 2020 to upgrade the backbone network for European research, to invest in big data storage and quantum technology, and to acquire two prototype next-generation supercomputers, one of which will be among the world’s top three most powerful computers.

‘Most of the data today is locked in literature, is locked in papers, and we have to unlock that data.’

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

‘You’re talking about a billion, billion operations per second,’ Commissioner Moedas said. ‘That’s 1 000 times more than a supercomputer today.’

Originally designed for scientists, the European Open Science Cloud and the supporting European Data Infrastructure will be gradually opened up to businesses and public services.

The European Cloud Initiative was announced alongside a series of measures to help European industry and public bodies make the most of new digital technologies as part of the EU’s strategy to create a Digital Single Market.

Overall, the plans will mobilise over EUR 50 billion of public and private investments to support the digitisation of industry, including standardising computer languages used to enable devices to communicate with each other, and enhancing cyber security.

‘We want our digital industry to be used to create value, to create wealth, and jobs, and growth, and to have a large increase in European GDP (gross domestic product) as a result of that,’ Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, told the briefing.

‘We think that here there is genuine European added value which will help our industry and will take it out of this situation where we have national fragmentation.’

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