Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World: three powerful but complex premises to the idea of opening up European research and innovation systems. The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) is envisaged by the European Commission as the basis to foster open science and open innovation: a network of organisations and infrastructures from various countries and communities that supports the open creation and dissemination of knowledge and scientific data. The EOSC is intended to take off by federating existing scientific data infrastructures now spread across disciplines and EU member states. This will make access to scientific data much easier and more efficient.


Astronomy hand-in-hand cross-border and multi-disciplinary for EOSC

Astronomy is at the forefront of data sharing with a well-established record of using common data formats, and of interoperability between data archives, services and tools. The astronomical Virtual Observatory (VO) provides the underlying framework of standards, which since its beginnings in 2001 has now developed into a mature and operational e-infrastructure widely implemented across Europe and internationally.  

VO services provide astronomy researchers with seamless access to hundreds of global astronomy services, with innovative ‘all-sky’ tools for accessing a wide diversity of data including the largest billion source sky surveys.

The Data Access, Discovery and Interoperability, ‘DADI’, work of the H2020 ASTERICS project builds on these achievements by engaging the astronomy and astroparticle European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRIs), and their ‘pathfinders’, in a coordinated effort to implement the data from these multi-wavelength (electromagnetic spectrum) and multi-messenger (neutrinos, cosmic rays, gravitational waves) facilities in the VO framework.

“DADI’ succeeded in helping these large infrastructures become not only users of the VO, but participants in its development — ensuring the relevance and applicability of the framework and illustrating a good model for developing an e-infrastructure that meets the needs of the scientific domain it serves.

Improving researcher efficiency with FAIR principles

In order to ensure that Astronomical data supports discovery and innovation, the VO follows FAIR (Findable, Interoperable, Accessible, Reusable) principles by design. The architecture of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) enables data to be Findable via VO registries, Accessible via standard data access protocols, Interoperable with core VO standards, and Re-usable by multiple tools and services.

The remarkable direct mapping of the VO concepts to the FAIR principles means that the VO is ready for the EOSC, a view that has been reinforced by participation in EOSCPilot activities.

Facilitating interoperability and re-use of cross-border data – The ESCAPE project

The VO has been incredibly successful in integrating distributed infrastructures into one single virtual astronomy facility. The diversity of the various multi-messenger ESFRI facilities obviously represent the next challenge. ESCAPE ( a H2020 project, leverages experience from ASTERICS to a next more ambitious step: assess and implement the connection of the ESFRI and other astronomy and astroparticle research infrastructures to the EOSC through the VO framework, actively contributing to the set up of the EOSC services.

ESCAPE is facilitating the interoperability and re-use of these data and their link to the EOSC framework making them accessible to the full European and indeed international communities.

The VO is an excellent precursor to and example for the EOSC. With the experience and lessons learned from building the astronomical interoperability framework, the VO has much to offer to the development of the EOSC. The EOSC in turn provides the opportunity for VO to realise its next main challenges of strengthening data stewardship activities for open science, and interfacing the VO with interoperable computing to address the big data challenge presented by the unprecedented data rates that will be generated by the astronomy ESFRI and space missions.

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Note: Article adapted from “PROMPTING AN EOSC IN PRACTICE- Interim report and recommendations of the Commission 2nd High Level Expert Group [2017-2018] on the European Open Science Cloud

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