The Roadmap actually contains specific recommendations for the establishment or expansion of 35 concrete infrastructures covering a wide range of scientific activities. It is also expected that the European Commission will recommend that only the 35 projects mentioned be eligible for support under EU’s Framework Programme for Research for the detailed planning of new research infrastructures.
This is confirmed by Bjørn Henrichsen, director of the Norwegian Social Science Data Services. He has chaired the Roadmap Working Group for Social Sciences and Humanities, one of the three infrastructure working groups behind the report.
“The Commission has signalled very clearly that they wish to succeed in this,” emphasises Mr Henrichsen. He believes that UiB has researchers in all fields who, among the 35 projects, will find some that they consider both relevant and important.
Not an EU project
“At the same time, all these projects will not necessarily be realised. It is essential that a sufficient number of states contribute funds. Some of the projects also depend on cooperation with private industry,” he tells us.
“It is important, however, to emphasise that the Roadmap is not an EU project,” says Mr Henrichsen. It is the European Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) which is behind the Roadmap. ESFRI is a forum for collaboration between the Research Ministers in Europe. The initiative to this collaboration originally came from the European Council of Ministers, who defined the original frames of reference, while the EU Commission has had the role of secretariat throughout.
“And the Commission has not had any right of instruction or otherwise directed the work. The Commission has had its representatives in the working groups in the same way as the individual countries,” explains Mr Henrichsen.
Little Europe experiences keen competition
“The ESFRI Roadmap aims to coordinate the development, organisation and funding of pan-European infrastructures. Previously there has been little such coordination,” claims Mr Henrichsen, “but a quite new and more competitive global situation forces us to work along these lines.”
“In China, several hundred thousand new engineers are educated every year. If little Europe is to keep abreast of such developments, it does not help to have one quite adequate institution in one European country and a competing institution in another. It is important to channel all our resources to one institution in order to make it a world leader. “This is essentially what this is about,” says Mr Henrichsen.
ESFRI will primarily concentrate on major, large-scale projects. Some of these concern the construction of large, physical centres, such as the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) in Darmstadt in Germany, which has a budget of EUR 1,186 million. Other projects are based on upgrading existing structures, such as the European Social Survey (ESS), which has been ongoing since 2001. This project has a more modest budget of EUR 9 million.
Breakthrough for the social sciences and humanities
“In the Working Group we have given as much emphasis to virtual structures as to physical installations, which is perhaps particularly important in relation to the humanities and social sciences. After all, the electronic networks are no more important than the information flowing through them,” explains Mr Henrichsen.
The humanities and social sciences together have been allocated 6 of the 35 recommended projects. These projects have budgets of between EUR 48 and EUR 146 million over a ten-year period, and all of them are planned to start next year or in 2008.
“An interesting feature during this process has been the non-discriminatory treatment of all fields of research, and the secretariat has devoted equal resources to them all. This is something of a breakthrough and proof that the importance of the social sciences and humanities is being recognised,” says Mr Henrichsen.