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ANFF CEO Jane Fitzpatrick’s Opinion Piece on the International Conference of Research Infrastructures (ICRI) Brno Declaration

As CEO of ANFF I was invited by the Australian Government to represent Australia at the International Conference on Research Infrastructures in Brno, Czech Republic, in October this year. The conference is supported by the European Commission and works to foster global best practice around research infrastructure (RI) and cooperation on a global scale. The conference program was stimulating with a well-considered balance of themes and presentations with a substantial amount of time given over to discussion and sharing of ideas.

The Brno Declaration on Fostering a Global Ecosystem of Research Infrastructures was announced on this international stage. The declaration contains calls for action that are supported by the EU Member States and the European Commission. Most importantly, it highlights that these entities are:
‘…open to using their own processes and the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) to underpin the development of the thriving global Ris ecosystem…’

So, what is in this wonderful document?

The document is split into two sections, with ten general policy perspectives and twelve calls for action. The first section outlines what RI is and how it can be organised. It also outlines the various benefits and outcomes from RI investment. Some of the key points of interest to the NRI community are:

  • RI is essential to conduct breakthrough fundamental research and drive excellence, extending the frontiers of human knowledge beyond yet known horizons, to perform cutting-edge applied research, advancing the technology development and feeding into science-driven innovation, and to provide services in the support of tackling grand societal challenges, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • RI brings together critical mass of people, resources, stakeholders to provide solutions to real problems.
  • RI strongly contributes to the open science agenda.
  • RI can be a nucleus for development in regional and national agendas.
  • Through clever planning RI can help bridge the research gap and provide the platform for local communities to solve their issues while contributing to the global knowledge.
  • RI is ‘critical infrastructure’.
  • RI accelerates and enriches research outcomes.
  • Internationally integrated RI provides even more value on a global scale.
  • Better international cooperation on the evolution of RI will enhance the value it brings globally.
  • International RI cooperation will also add to the weight of science diplomacy.

It is gratifying to see the European Union state so clearly the importance of RI and how its integration and cooperation can provide benefits at scales from the very local to the global. Many of these themes were picked up by our own 2021 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap showing that these views are not unique to the European perspective.

The ‘Call for Action’ of this declaration provides a number of measures that people involved in RI should consider. These actions will underpin the perspectives above while providing room for RI to evolve and develop and provide a more globally balanced and integrated system. While the twelve actions can be read in the declaration, I have summarised some of them here:

  • Integrate RI policy with research and innovation policy, with larger economic development strategies (local to global) and with sustainability in mind.
  • Consider RI as a long-term investment and as ‘critical infrastructure’ and provide funds to cover the full life-cycle of infrastructure systems over the long term. Exploitation of the synergies between different ways of funding RI to create a coherent RI landscape and lower barriers to access is encouraged.
  • The management of RI needs to be professional.
  • Incentivise integration, networking and clustering of RI facilities through policy settings at the local to global scale.
  • RI policy makers should cooperate and share best practise and the international community of policy makers, funders and stakeholders should set up principles for international cooperation.
  • The structures in place should be leveraged to provide platforms for dialogue and deeper cooperation, namely the International Conference on Research Infrastructures (ICRI), Group of Senior Officials on Global Research Infrastructures (GSO) a working group under the G7 (Group of Seven), GSO Framework for Global Research Infrastructures and the GSO Declaration of Intent on Global Excellence-Driven Access.

Australia is well placed to enact many of these calls as these already form a large part of our thinking in relation to investment in RI. Our place in the global landscape has yet to be fully realised and this declaration can provide some direction to ensure that our continued support of our RI excellence is driven with both national and international goals at its core.

To read the Brno Declaration in its entirely, click here.