Over the last six months, ACM Europe has been hard at work establishing fruitful relationships between the professional and academic computing community in Europe on the one hand, and the European Commission on the other hand.
"We want to make the European computer science community more aware of the possibilities that European research funds offer," explains Fabrizio Gagliardi, chair of the ACM Europe Council.
The European research funds to which Gagliardi refers are part of Horizon 2020, the European Union research and innovation program that runs through the year 2020. With a total budget of €80 billion (about $89 billion), the program has about €700 million (about $780 million) available for the deployment of e-infrastructure, including high-capacity communication networks and distributed computing infrastructures such as grids and clouds, data infrastructures, high-performance computing infrastructures, and the like.
Gagliardi explains, "We help steer the investments in European computer science research in the right direction. We also alert the European Commission in case certain decisions go against the interest of our community."
As an example, Gagliardi mentions cuts proposed at the end of last year to grants from the European Research Council, the first pan-European funding body for blue skies research. "These individual grants are most appreciated by our researchers. Scientists from many fields were concerned about these cuts. In a collaborative effort, we wrote a letter of concern to the European Commission, to the European Parliament, and to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, that was signed by eight Nobel laureates. The result was that Juncker had to reconsider those cuts."
Gagliardi regularly meets with Augusto Burgueño and his colleagues in the European Commission. Burgueño is head of the e-Infrastructure unit at the European Commission Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content, and Technology in Brussels, Belgium. Burgueño explained, "We don’t fund research itself, but we fund the deployment of infrastructure so that European researchers can do their job. For a successful implementation of this program, I want to tap into the pool of ACM members."
Burgueño said there at least in three ways in which ACM can help the European Union successfully implement Horizon2020. "First of all, some ACM members are also users of our resources. I would like to stimulate this user community to become more pro-active. As users, they can help us answer questions such as: what needs should the e-infrastructure address in the near future? Does the e-infrastructure deliver according to expectations?
"Second, I want to invite ACM members to share their expertise not as users, but as technologists and operators of e-infrastructure. More specifically, we are looking for evaluators and monitors. Evaluators are experts who read and evaluate research proposals; we base our funding decisions on the opinions of the evaluators. Monitors are experts who monitor how a project that has already been funded evolves over time.
"The third way in which ACM members can help us is in strategic thinking. We need good advice from people who are well-recognized in the ICT community and who are willing to think about which direction we should move over the next five to 10 years. Ideally, we want to tap into not only into ACM Europe, but also ACM global. We want to enrich our European vision."
In the deployment of e-infrastructure, Burgueño said, "We foster open innovation, open science, and are open to the world. We very much support the idea of sharing research data without barriers; American researchers should have access to European data, and vice-versa. In this context, we strongly support the Research Data Alliance, and our colleagues in the U.S. and around the world. I am convinced that we will all win by being open and sharing."
In addition, Burgueño said, the EC has set a target of having women make up at least 40% of the computer science community in Europe. "We need more women."
A long-term goal, Burgueño said, "is to create a kind of app store for scientists. The idea is that a researcher will search for an appropriate tool in the same way that you as a consumer presently search for an application in the app store. The researcher finds the right tool, but because the tool requires more resources than her own computer can provide, she also can find somewhere in the network where a supercomputer is available for use. That supercomputer runs her program, processes the data (perhaps from a remote data source), and also makes a visualization. At the end she will receive perhaps an MP4-file that shows her in the most convenient way the outcomes of her research questions.
"We expect to lay the foundation of this vision by 2020, and we are counting on ACM members to help us make it happen."
Bennie Mols is a science and technology writer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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