New European database launched

10-Oct-2013 - France

A new public database of Europe’s finest scientific research facilities has been launched today to better inform policy makers about the deployment of science funding and to help scientists locate and access the most appropriate equipment and services to support their research. This new tool is likely to contribute significantly to the success of Horizon 2020 – the European Commission’s €70 billion programme for research and innovation for the period 2014 to 2020.

The MERIL database (Mapping of the European Research Infrastructure Landscape) aims to provide a comprehensive inventory of high quality research infrastructures in Europe across all scientific domains, accessible through an interactive online portal. It will provide a better picture of Europe’s existing scientific capacities and foster collaboration amongst the European scientific community by compiling information on high quality facilities of any size and profile, from specialised university laboratories and historical archives to biobanks and experiments at large establishments such as CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

MERIL’s development is the result of a pan-European multi-stakeholder effort co-ordinated by the European Science Foundation (ESF). The longstanding need for such a database was reaffirmed in a 2009 report from the ESF and European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCs)[1], which stressed that an inventory of existing facilities would enhance the information available to policy makers for planning and funding decisions. The MERIL project was subsequently initiated in October 2010 with competitive funding from the European Commission and significant input from the ESF member organisations and other stakeholders, including the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The project was consciously designed to complement the work of ESFRI by producing a survey of existing facilities that could inform recommendations on future investment requirements for large-scale European facilities.

Research infrastructures indexed in the MERIL portal have been identified as being of high quality and of greater than national relevance by responsible national and international “Data Intermediaries”; they are also required to offer access to external scientific users, nationally and internationally, through a transparent selection and admission process. The database will be continuously open to the addition of research infrastructures that meet the criteria for inclusion.

Martin Hynes, Chief Executive, European Science Foundation, commented, “Research excellence requires high quality facilities which not only support research but also create an attractive environment for researchers. MERIL is a unique resource for the scientific community and we hope it will foster greater interaction, mobility and a sense of partnership across the region.”

Jean-Pierre Caminade of the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research said, “MERIL will have a profound effect on strategic European policy through the preparation of funding decisions, which ultimately affects the direction of research and its outcomes. Today’s launch is a huge step forward for the scientific community, but the impetus now lies with them in order to secure its future. Facility managers have a responsibility to provide useful, accurate, and up-to-date information on an ongoing basis in order to maintain the value of the database, whilst all the research infrastructures’ stakeholders must utilise the data to the best effect for their research programmes and policies.”

Peter Fletcher, Head of International Relations at the Science and Technology Facilities Council in the UK, said, “There have been several attempts to build such a database in the past but they have always struggled with fact that they were conducted as isolated projects, which provided variable results. Funded by the European Commission, however, MERIL meets the need for a simple-to-use, clear map that provides the valuable information that people really need in an accessible form. It will rely on the continuous input of facility managers to maintain its value. Collectively, they can show the scale of the research infrastructure base of Europe, so we encourage Europe’s scientific community to embrace this excellent tool and contribute to its success.”

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