12 Sep 2022 Updates

LERU publishes statement on research infrastructures

In a statement released on 2nd September 2022, the League of European Research Universities (LERU) outlines its views on what is needed to develop a more cohesive, diverse, and societally relevant research infrastructure landscape in Europe.

On 6th September 2022, the European Council Research Working Party will discuss the subject of research infrastructures (RIs) and how they can be better supported in future. LERU is delighted that the Czech Presidency have recognized the importance of RIs. LERU would like to highlight that:

  • Besides the emphasis almost exclusively orientated to large-scale infrastructures through ESFRI, the smaller and medium-scale RIs deserve a higher visibility than they have at present, as they are crucial for university-based research;
  • Barriers to the synergistic use of funding sources for RIs should be identified and removed whilst a greater emphasis should be placed on funding for the complete lifecycle of a project, and not just start-up costs;
  • Despite the laudable focus on Open Access from the European Commission, many RIs need to charge for access (at some level) to survive. Only infrastructures with very generous patrons can offer a truly Open Access service in the longer-term. Funding structures need to be put in place to allow RIs more easily to embrace Open Access approaches;
  • In the currently politically fraught world, where Open Science is increasingly important, a framework on what data RIs can share and with whom urgently needs to be drawn up and agreed by stakeholders at an international level;
  • The accessibility of RIs can be improved by financially supporting efforts to catalogue small and medium-scaled infrastructures and their access requirements, and improving funding for visits to specialized structures;
  • RI staff are not adequately recognized for the vital and highly specialized role which they play. Efforts to improve their career development are vital;
  • Clustering RIs is desirable and can lead to cross-fertilization of ideas, but (legal) mega clusters of RIs may create additional issues in governance and support while reducing the flexibility to address urgent new topics;
  • If RIs are to answer societal needs, they need to recognize the vital role of social sciences and the humanities, in addition to the largely discipline focused approach we have seen so far.

Professor Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary-General LERU said ‘RIs are vital to the research carried out at universities and have a crucial role in promoting innovation, yet many barriers exist which prevent them reaching their full potential. We encourage the Council to be bold and develop a RI ecosystem encompassing smaller and medium-sized RIs, as well as larger RI infrastructures. These together will help to address the changing societal and economic needs of Europe now and in the future.’