Conference theme

The overarching theme for ICRI 2021 is “The role of research infrastructures in building bridges to a sustainable world.” The program, as outlined in the schedule of events, is split into four parallel themes.

ICRI 2021 takes place in the context of increasing globalization of research and technology development and the growing need for new knowledge, technologies and innovations to address global challenges and social, economic and environmental problems.

Over the past several years, a number of common issues related to the development and exploitation of research infrastructures have emerged. These include:

  • financing and organizing international research infrastructures
  • developing governance models required to operate and effectively use increasingly complex infrastructures
  • managing and regulating research data
  • assessing the impact of research infrastructures on the advancement of knowledge, the sustainability of our environment and the wellbeing of our citizens

These issues confront researchers, research institutions and funding organizations around the world. Different jurisdictions address these issues in a variety of ways. As a result, there is much to learn from each other as we determine what works best, in what domestic context, and through what particular means. Discussing the effectiveness of various approaches, identifying best practices and learning which options can be successfully implemented in various jurisdictions can have a positive impact on the way researchers share and use research infrastructures to generate new knowledge.

The ICRI 2021 Program Committee believes that it is important to recognize that the major challenges facing the global research enterprise are neither static, nor effectively addressed with simple one-time measures. The dimensions of these challenges, and their relative impact on the ability of research communities to address global challenges, change over time. This results from shifts in political contexts, the introduction and adoption of new technologies and our evolving understanding of emerging challenges. For this reason, we will carry over certain themes from previous ICRI conferences in order to explore them further.

We will also introduce new themes of particular relevance to the role research infrastructures play in meeting global challenges. The goal is not to repeat discussion on previous themes, but rather to build on key points, identify new and potential solutions and share developing best practices.

Parallel themes

A – International research infrastructures: The way forward
Research infrastructures have been developed through international collaboration for many years. Still, earlier models for these ambitious scientific and technological projects are challenged by changes in the socioeconomic and scientific context.

Research infrastructures are required in all fields of science and not just for traditional scientific disciplines. The scale of funding required for these facilities is increasing substantially. New international research infrastructures often require large array of sites as well as mobile or virtual capacities. They are increasingly expected to produce socioeconomic benefits alongside their main scientific objectives.

New international research infrastructures are of interest to, and require, a large number of participating countries, often beyond the usual countries leading in research.

B – Practical steps toward effective global research infrastructure governance

Governance can be described as the processes, structures, policies and organizational traditions that determine the way people direct, administer or control an organization, how stakeholders have their say, how decisions are made and how decision-makers are held to account.

The governance of global research infrastructures (GRI) faces specific challenges because their funding partners and user communities are multinational in nature. The governance model employed can have a significant impact on scientific effectiveness, societal impacts and organizational efficiency. These can, in turn, have an impact on long-term sustainability, including the ability to improve both services for science communities and support from funders.

In order to maximize effectiveness, governance models should be tailored to global research infrastructures based on:

  • the expectations and needs of the science community
  • a broad set of stakeholders
  • the infrastructure’s historical and anticipated development
  • the needs and capabilities of the global research infrastructure as it matures

The organizational structures that support governance can range from highly structured and centralized, like CERN, to very decentralized and loose like the LIGO Collaborative.

The Group of Senior Officials (GSO) Framework Criterion 2 – Partnership Management speaks to the importance of defining roles and responsibilities early on, having the ability to evolve with time, and using independent scientific advisory bodies.

These sessions will provide managers of global research infrastructures with practical information, advice and tools to develop and codify effective governance.

C – Assessing and communicating societal impact: The impact of research infrastructures and their contribution to societal welfare

This parallel theme will go beyond the traditional studies on how to measure the potential and socioeconomic impact of research infrastructures. It will coherently tell a story, which will be theoretically founded on socioeconomic grounds but based on experiences and concrete examples from different research infrastructures. The four sessions will offer a logical sequence of case studies of research infrastructures’ societal impact, using examples from all continents, different scientific domains, and different research infrastructure types (single sited and distributed), but will also be understandable separately for those who will not follow the entire parallel theme flow.

Each block will be introduced by an expert on the given topic. Those introductions will build the basis for table discussions. Concrete examples could be presented.

D – Enabling collaboration between academic and public-sector research

Research infrastructures that enable collaboration between curiosity-driven academic research and the mission-driven research undertaken by government departments and agencies can amplify scientific outcomes and lead to new solutions to complex challenges such as climate change, emerging diseases and cybersecurity. As a topic of growing interest in many countries, this theme will explore how these collaborations have managed the COVID-19 crisis, how they may contribute to future crises, how data sharing practices help or hinder collaboration, and how to attract the next generation of research talent.