Visions, needs and requirements for (future) research environments: An exploration series with researchers

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The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) initiative aims at supporting more than 1.7 million researchers and fostering interdisciplinary research in Europe. To understand better, what the research community needs, focused workshops, consultations and an Exploration Series were organized. The latter consisted of an interview series with 17 top-level researchers from different domains such as Engineering and Technical Sciences, Medical and Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences and Humanities as well as an interview series with six academics who became successful Science Fiction authors.

    Objectives & Challenges

    The Exploration Series’ aimed at Researcher Engagement. Its objectives therefore were to:

    • establish ways of communication that involved researchers in the co-creation of the EOSC and to elicit their visions, needs and requirements, ensuring the EOSC would be accepted and appreciated on a larger scale by its key stakeholder community
    • outreach to researchers and their communities via multipliers and testimonials (in order to establish a network, strengthen support for the EOSC initiative and make it better known)
    • identify current barriers and services considered essential for a well-functioning EOSC 
    • identify (EOSC related and stakeholder-relevant) topics for further discussion as well as services needed for cutting-edge research
    • obtain a better understanding on how research is changing
    • elaborate visions on how research will be conducted in 5 to 15 years and what the effect and impact on research infrastructures will be
    • provide all findings as seeds for public comments to involve an even larger stakeholder community
    • feed all results directly into the work of the EOSC governance bodies and the EOSC Working Groups (WGs), providing input crucial for the development of the EOSC

    Three main challenges in terms of researcher engagement and communication were identified within the framework of this activity. First, the EOSC had already been talked about for a relatively long time – which was also perceived as such, without any concrete, useful tools and services being available. Thus, in spite of all effort invested, researchers still had no clear picture of what the EOSC should or will be or how it will transform their life into a better state.

    Second, a flood of reports, presentations, fancy names and acronyms as well as the fact that most information provided was often too abstract, opaque and scattered, was a major barrier to successful researcher engagement.

    Third, due to marketing campaigns promoting the EOSC, its (not yet existing) services and its benefits for researchers, researchers became sceptical. Additionally, hardly anything hinted at concrete benefits for day-to-day research. At the same time, the actual goals and benefits of the EOSC initiative – the idea of consulting with actual stakeholders to collect input on what was (and is) needed and derive recommendations from that – were lost. On the other hand, key concepts such as openness were misunderstood as being contradictory to R&D settings, specifically in industry contexts.

    Main Findings

    The main results can be divided into two categories: services and discussion points for (the further development of) research environments were collected such as data literacy (e.g. reading and evaluating data), trust issues (e.g. services to help checking and verifying data quality) or interdisciplinary research (e.g. translation services to translate scientific concepts from one discipline to another). For detailed information on either services or discussion points, please see:


    Main Recommendations

    Researchers were saturated by mailing lists, presentations, and blogs, if they followed standard marketing and dissemination approaches. Strategies that are highly unlikely to work therefore include sales-type marketing (What does not yet exist cannot be sold easily to a critical audience), promises of a better world without even knowing why or how the EOSC will make the world (of research) better and abstract concepts as researchers are asking for tangible information and concrete services that they will benefit from in terms of their day-to-day research.

    Against this background, unconventional approaches appeared to be more successful. Interviews with top-level researchers and academics who became prominent Science Fiction authors worked well. Apart from this, the genuine approach to ask about what is needed and wanted was very well received.

    Please find all the key actions in the Synthesis of the Takeaway Messages


    Link Collection: Interviews with researchers


    Link Collection: Interviews with SciFi-authors