e-Infrastructure refers to a combination and interworking of digitally-based technology (hardware and software), resources (data, services, digital libraries), communications (protocols, access rights and networks), and the people and organisational structures needed to support modern, internationally leading collaborative research be it in the arts and humanities or the sciences. This definition reflects a broader understanding of e-Infrastructure as defined in the report “Delivering the UK’s e-Infrastructure for Research and Innovation.”
A coherent strategy for developing and delivering the UK’s future e-infrastructure needs is essential in driving forward the continued development of a globally competitive research base within the UK. The development of a sustainable and cutting edge e-infrastructure eco-system is vital to support excellent and innovative research across a wide range of disciplines and industrial sectors. This home-grown infrastructure needs to be integrated with the global infrastructure so that researchers have access to the most appropriate leading capabilities where-ever they are.
The roadmap was developed by the RCUK e-Infrastructure Group (whose membership includes all the Research Councils, Innovate UK, Jisc and Met Office). It sets out the requirements of all of the research communities that make use of e-infrastructure and provides a framework for future investment. This covers not just capital, but also operational costs, and potential project activities that will be required to maximise the return on investment. Due to the fast moving nature of developments and investments in this area we are proposing that the roadmap will be treated as living document that will be updated on a regular basis after further feedback from the broader research community and other key stakeholders.
Research Councils UK (RCUK) have identified e-infrastructure for research as an important area for the future. Following a number of recent reviews in this area, RCUK convened a group to look at the evidence presented by them. The aim of the group was to set priorities for e-infrastructure both over the spending review period and in the longer term. Chaired by BEIS, membership of the group was made up of representatives from UK Research Funders (RCUK and Wellcome Trust), Higher Education Funding Councils (DELNI, HEFCE and SFC) and Universities UK.
This report sets out the findings and recommendations of the e-Infrastructure Advisory Group into the activities and recommendations put forward by the 2009 RCUK International Review of e-Science and the 2010 report “Delivering the UK’s e-Infrastructure for Research and Innovation”.
As well as reviewing these reports, a consultation exercise was undertaken to provide a baseline of the current level of infrastructure provision at the local and national level, an understanding of the processes by which future provision is currently determined and to highlight infrastructure elements where support and development is required to enable sustainability. This consultation canvassed UK Research Councils, UK HEIs and selected end-user organisations to provide a range of perspectives to take into account geographical issues (e.g. consortia, regional funding etc), institutional research focuses and degree of utilisation and experience of e-infrastructure.
A full copy of the report which includes key recommendations and next steps is available here
The report was prepared by the Review Expert Group chaired by Professor Carole Goble. It concluded that whilst the UK’s e–infrastructure is well developed and indeed is amongst the best in the world, further efforts are needed to build on this early success to drive forward the continued development of a globally competitive research base within the UK. This is of particular importance at a time when other countries are making major investments in the creation of coordinated e-infrastructure.
The report also calls for the development of the UK’s e-infrastructure through enhanced co-ordination and leadership and a phased programme of relatively modest, but heavily targeted ‘added value’ funding. Through such co-ordination and leadership, the aim is to drive out waste and duplication and to drive forward efficiency savings across the sector in the development, exploitation and use of e-infrastructure. In the absence of leadership and co-ordination, all the evidence points to the real danger of duplication and significant wasted investment.
The scientific rationale for a more co-ordinated e-infrastructure is equally compelling. The report argues that a well integrated e-infrastructure has the potential to increase collaboration, sharing and reuse of resource dramatically across the research community, driving gains in research productivity and innovation. A far greater sharing of e-infrastructure also offers the potential to fuel exciting new multi-disciplinary research which is widely recognised now as critical to address the most pressing scientific challenges.
A full copy of the report which includes key recommendations is available here
In 2009 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned Research Councils UK (RCUK) to lead a review to assess the progress to date and identify the next steps for development of the UK’s e-infrastructure for research and innovation.
The recommendations of the RCUK International Review of e-Science, as well as the findings from a range of other studies, emphasised the importance of timely and coordinated actions in developing the UK’s e-infrastructure for research and innovation. The Review of e-Infrastructure and subsequent report addresses these actions, focusing on establishing an effective mechanism for co-ordination. The report argues that without taking the right steps now, there is a risk of not just losing UK’s leading position, but also jeopardizing the country’s capability to collaborate in addressing global challenges.