According to Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation “Science should have no borders.” This is the idea that prompted the setting up of Europe’s “digital coffeehouse” known as the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), officially unveiled on 23 November at the University of Vienna, Austria.
The first influx of funding for the EOSC will come from the European Commission, with a promise to invest €600 million to support the core functions of the EOSC up until 2020. Further financial support may come from a mix of funding sources, such as deposit fees from national funders, user-generated revenues.
TheEuropean Commission also announced a team of eleven that will run the huge EOSC project, who were selected from the European research infrastructure and public research and funding organisations. Karel Luyben, vice president for research at CESAER ― a European association of 50 leading universities of science and technology in 25 countries ― was named as chair of the executive board, which will set the future directions of the cloud. Together with two additional management layers, a governance board and a stakeholder forum, the board will outline the annual work plans and rules of participation. The Commission will announce another team in January 2019 to run the stakeholder forum and deal with scientific outreach.
The platform, which joins existing infrastructures into a single portal, is specifically designed for researchers to share, access, and reuse data with the aim of changing the culture of research to one that is more open and inclusive and that hopefully spark new ideas and future innovation. Moedas has stated that the unveiling of the new platform “marks the beginning of Europe’s new architecture for the strength of ideas, of a common platform for research data.” The beta version will allow scientists to begin using the system. The portal is still a work in progress and based on important feedback, will undergo further refinements before the full launch in 2020. Until now, no tool has been available that allows researchers to share and reuse data across EU member states.
The prototype has been developed over the past two years using various small-scale projects referred to as “science demonstrators” on different topics, including energy, social science, environmental science, and physics. For example, the EOSC tools were used by Dr Gianpaolo Coro from the National Research Council of Italy in Pisa to retrieve data on the spread― owing to climate change and the Suez Canal expansion― of an invasive pufferfish species called the silver-cheeked toadfish, , and which is currently have a detrimental impact on Mediterranean fisheries. The data has allowed the Italian researcher to predict, in a matter of a few days, that the toxic pufferfish will enter the Black Sea via the Bosporus within the next five years. Without the use of EOSC, it would have taken at least one year to collect and prepare data to generate the same result.
Ease-of-use still needs to be improved before the platform becomes widely adopted as the go-to tool for researchers. Apart from a few niggling problems, the portal will potentially revolutionalise the way research is conducted. The EOSC portal will not only make publicly funded research more transparent, but regular people will be given the opportunity to engage with the scientific data that has been generated through public funding, potentially facilitate more public involvement. The platform is an essential step towards the EU’s vision of an open-border, cross-disciplinary, digital future for science.