The European Open Science Cloud – the future of Open Access research
The Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing scientific knowledge and cultural heritage. Open Access (OA) allows new approaches to scholarly publishing.
The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) aims to provide Europe’s 1.7 million researchers and 70 million students and professionals in science and technology with easy access to other researchers’ data, and to a wide range of computing resources. The cloud will achieve this aim by integrating existing and emerging horizontal and thematic data infrastructures, effectively bridging today’s fragmentation and ad-hoc solutions. The ambitious project will be finalised by the end 2020, at will be the main data input and research tool for FP9.
OA, as defined in the Berlin Declaration, means unrestricted, online access to peer-reviewed, scholarly research papers for reading and productive re-use, not impeded by any financial, organisational, legal or technical barriers. Ideally, the only restriction on use is an obligation to attribute the work to the author.
By putting cutting-edge computing resources at the fingertips of researchers, the EOSC could bring about a step change in productivity. The availability of computing resources should no longer be a bottleneck. If, as commercial cloud providers say, only a small percentage of European science is taking advantage of so-called hyper-scale cloud technologies today, there is enormous scope for a transformation in the way in which researchers share and analyse data. The implementation of the EOSC could catalyse widespread adoption of hyper-scale cloud computing by European science.
There are several obstacles, which presently stands in the way of the development of the EOSC and of European researchers reaping the full benefits of data-driven science. Most of these problems are social rather than technical such as a lack of common standards to ensure interoperability of data and not enough hardware capacity for scientific computing, storage, connectivity. There is also the significant issue of costs and funding the EOSC and how this programme will be fully paid for.
The European Commission is currently running several programmes to help overcome these challenges and help with the development of the EOSC. This includes the EOSC pilot project, OpenAIRE ADVANCE, eInfraCentral and the EOSC Hub. The European Commission has also recently formally adopted the EOSC Implementation Road Map, which explains how the project will be completed by 2020 and how the infrastructure will operate.
Impact of Brexit?
There is a real challenge facing the UK, and indeed Europe, if the UK is not a member of the EOSC going forward. Research is global; it does not stop at national boundaries. As argued by Paul Ayris in his article, Brexit – and its potential impact on open access the UK ‘will suffer if its research data is not visible as part of this European collaboration. Europe, and indeed research communities across the globe, will also be the poorer if they cannot seamlessly access UK research outputs alongside other European findings’.
Theresa May’s speech on the 3rd of March 2018, Britain will be leaving the European Digital Single Market. As the EOSC is a development from the European Digital Single Market it appears, that potentially, UK Universities and research centres will not be able to have access to the EOSC. However, there are several countries, such as Switzerland, who despite not being members of the EU are associate members of the Horizon 2020 project and have played a significant role in the implementation of the EOSC. Further to this one of the core values of Open Research is that national borders should not get in the way of access to information. Several of the early position papers for FP9 have stated that they want the next funding programme to work with countries outside of the core EU nation states. Further to this, as previously mentioned the UK is a world leader in Open Research data repositories having over 7% of the global share. Finally, the UK governments own report on the future of Horizon 2020 is positive in its view of future UK – EU collaborations on research projects and hints that it wants to have associate membership of FP9. Despite all this there is still no certainty that the UK will have full access to the EOSC post-Brexit.
Therefore, as with most things related to Britain’s role post-Brexit, everything depends on the final deal.