Advancing EOSC and research assessment together

During the annual flagship event for the EOSC community, the EOSC Symposium 2022, our incoming Secretary General explored ways for EOSC and research assessment to reinforce each other.
22nd November 2022
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Thank you for the introduction and invitation to be here. I was asked to give a short intervention on what I see are the main issues to address in the relation between European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), which is ERA action 1, and the reform of research assessment, which is ERA action 3.

As many of you know, CESAER was a founding member of the EOSC Association, the current President Karel Luyben was nominated by CESAER and universities of science & technology provide much of the backbone to the EOSC in terms of hardware and e-infrastructures etc. The EOSC is therefore naturally a top priority for us.

On the other hand, for ERA action 3 on research assessment, this is also a top priority for our association and its Members, and we were indeed in the core group preparing the agreement.

So for CESAER and for universities of science & technology there are many interconnections and I am happy to share my thoughts around key issues and challenges to address at this interface.

If we start in the direction from action 3 to 1, from research assessment to EOSC, then this reform is vitally needed to unlock the full potential of EOSC. Think researchers and university professionals being properly rewarded for engaging with the data, infrastructures and services that underpin EOSC.

If we go in the other direction, from EOSC to research assessment, then here infrastructures, services and tools such as those provided by the EOSC ecosystem are critical for capturing a fuller picture of what modern research is and what researchers do. On one hand this can do with next generation metrics and looking at broader types of indicators going well beyond citation of papers to usage and impact of research outcomes more broadly. On the other hand, I see that EOSC could help us in the piloting and experimental phase of the reform of research assessment, as I think we all agree that these should be evidence-based and data-driven. And if we have a range of initiatives and pilot projects running around research assessment, then it would be useful to the community, including the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (COARA) and beyond, to be able to find, combine, and reuse evidence in meaningful ways as this evidence pool is growing.

In this way, we may manage to create ‘positive and learning feedback loops’ between ERA actions 1 and 3, EOSC and research assessment, to the benefit of both.

In addition to these challenges and opportunities, let me finish with two risks, related to both areas, that I hope we can work together to overcome.

First, while universities and the broader EOSC community should lead developments, we must ensure that action is not constrained by incompatibilities in the funding and legal landscapes. It must therefore be combined with clear and decisive action at regional, national and European levels. ERA action 2 that we heard about earlier today is very welcome in this context.

Second, as the enthusiasm for EOSC and COARA are both growing - and rightfully so! - and more and more people and organisations are getting involved, there is a risk to put an undue focus on risk mitigation which too easily translates into rigid and extensive governance structures. Basically, as complexity increases, the gut feeling is too often to clamp down with more governance layers, with the intention to mitigate potential and perceived risks, which can cause actual work to grind to a halt as those passionate about ‘getting things done’ instead are faced with red tape and approval processes everywhere.

Instead, I urge us as an EOSC community and as a COARA community to put quality, risk-taking and trust at the center of how we operate. I believe that is how you enable and energize passionate and talented people, which at the end is the real engine, and therefore also the recipe for success, for both EOSC and COARA.

Thank you very much.

Invited contribution delivered by our incoming Secretary General Mattias Björnmalm at the EOSC Symposium 2022 on 15 November 2022 during the session ‘Policy alignment & progress - where EOSC sits towards the ERA actions’ organised by the European Commission.

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