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New project to map Europe’s scientific research infrastructures

A comprehensive database of 900 European research infrastructures will allow scientists to access resources, services and facilities of which they may previously have been unaware

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A European Commission project ‘Mapping of the European Research Infrastructure Landscape’ is underway, with a new portal being previewed this week at an event in Rome.

The MERIL-2 project builds on the previous phases of MERIL initiated in 2010. Now, with renewed funding from Horizon 2020 and an expanded team, the new three-year MERIL-2 project will provide the means for making informed assessments and decisions about the research infrastructure landscape in Europe, and to encourage accessibility, new partnerships and collaborations within the scientific community.

A research infrastructure is defined as a facility or digital platform that provides the scientific community with resources and services to conduct top-level research in their respective fields.

Inclusion in the MERIL database is not limited by size or profile, with the portal covering high quality facilities that provide access to European and international users. This can range from specialised university laboratories and historical archives, to biobanks and experiments at large establishments such as CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

The MERIL-2 project will further expand the coverage of research infrastructures included in the database, and improve the depth and accuracy of the information held on them. The usability of the portal is also being developed through improved functionality and standardised data sets, which it is hoped will enable MERIL to become a hub for European research infrastructure information, resources and networking.

The MERIL database will enable individual research infrastructures to raise their profile and foster a greater sense of openness and partnership across Europe, while allowing scientists to access resources, services and facilities they may previously have been unaware of.

The portal will also allow policy-makers to analyse and optimise the national and European research infrastructure funding landscapes, pinpointing gaps and identifying synergies at the European level. It will also encourage research infrastructures themselves to exchange best practice with a view to optimising the operation and exploitation of research infrastructures.

In the new portal, information will be presented in a clearer and more usable way, and be quantitative where possible, enabling easier comparison and analysis. The new structure will also make it considerably easier for research infrastructures to submit and update their own data.

Ana Helman, MERIL Coordinator at the European Science Foundation said, “The original MERIL project was widely recognised as a valuable initiative, however in practice it faced a number of significant challenges and limitations. Now with renewed resources, an expanded team and having learnt from previous efforts, we believe MERIL-2 will realise the potential that such an initiative has to connect and inform the policy and research communities.”

The ambition for MERIL-2 is to be much more than a simple repository of information. It is to provide a destination website with dynamic content about research infrastructures, which will enable better use of existing resources and planning of future resources than is currently possible.

“The project is progressing well towards this ambition, and today’s demonstration of the new portal is a real milestone. However, in order to ensure data is kept up to date and to deliver sustained impact, the portal needs the European research infrastructure community to get behind it and help us to ensure it is as comprehensive as possible now and in the future.”

The second generation MERIL portal can be accessed at: http://portal.meril.eu.

 

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Related subjects: Research infrastructures