ePLAN report on the European Open Science Cloud

This blog post originally appeared on the eScience Center blog and was reprinted with permission.

‘The cloud’ is one of the hottest tech topics of our time. It’s therefore no surprise that European Commission has also jumped on the bandwagon. Big time! Last year, the European Commission launched the outline of a multi-year and multi-billion Euro plan for the development and implementation of a European Open Science Cloud.

An all-encompassing infrastructure

This ‘science cloud’ serves as a metaphor for an all-encompassing infrastructure, geared towards the scientific community. While the front-end or interface towards users should be user-friendly and service-oriented, the much more complex back-end should largely be hidden for end-users. Perhaps somewhat optimistically, the European Commission describes this future Open Science Cloud as:

“A virtual environment to store, share and re-use their [the scientists’] data across disciplines and borders. This will be underpinned by the European Data Infrastructure, deploying the high-bandwidth networks, large scale storage facilities and super-computer capacity necessary to effectively access and process large datasets stored in the cloud.”

Making it work

However, the European Commission will only serve as ‘the glue’ for the European Open Science Cloud. Like many European projects, the actual design and implementation relies on the initiative and inputs from collaborative member states. Given the opportunities of a science cloud for the Dutch academic community, leading scientists, science policy makers and digital infrastructure partners came together in December 2016 for a workshop organized by ePLAN (the national Platform of eScience/Data Research Centers in The Netherlands). The goal? To discuss ideals, opinions and ambitions for making a European science cloud actually work.

Questions from scientists

The workshop resulted in a wide variety of suggestions, ranging from ethical and cultural issues to more technological topics. Although opinions varied, certainly not all scientists were fully convinced (yet?) of the actual benefits of an Open Science Cloud. Paraphrasing some of the questions from scientists (#actuallivingscientist) to the policy makers of the European Open Science Cloud:

  • Do I get my work done quicker using this European Cloud? It seems like a lot of extra work, on top of all the extra work I am already supposed to do.
  • Will it really be easier than current research practices? Will it work like a one-stop-shop with single sign-on instead of using a multitude of independent software, hardware and data solutions?
  • Will it help me generate significantly more and better scientific ouput, benefiting from cutting edge technology?
  • Do I get scientific recognition for uploading, describing and publishing my analyses, software code and research data for the rest of the world?
  • Will my data be really safer in the European Cloud than on my laptop or personal Dropbox folder?

More details? Read the full workshop report here (Dutch only, sorry!).