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eInfraCentral Newsletter - Issue One

eInfraCentral - European E-Infrastructure Services Gateway

eInfraCentral’s mission is to ensure that by 2020 a more varied set of users (including industry) benefits from European e-infrastructures. This should take place by creating a common approach to defining and monitoring e-infrastructures services and discover where improvements can be made in delivering e-infrastructure services. eInfraCentral is built around three core objectives: 1) structure an open and guided discussion between e-infrastructures to consensually define a common catalogue for their services; 2) develop a single-entry point (the eInfraCentral portal) for end users to browse the service catalogue, and enhance the monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs); and 3) draw policy and sustainability lessons for the future development of a European e-infrastructure ‘market place’ as an extension of the common service catalogue and portal so that it includes a much broader range of e-infrastructures and services. 

Along with the EOSC Pilot projet, the eInfraCentral project is a ‘foundation stone’ of the future ‘European Open Science Cloud’ (EOSC) initiative of the European Commission which aims to provide European science, industry and public authorities with world-class digital infrastructure that bring state of the art computing and data storage capacity to scientists and engineer in the European Union.

 

Survey on e-infrastructure service catalogue

The survey was designed for e-infrastructure service providers and their customers and users, as well as a broader range of stakeholders to help to solicit needs and technical requirements for the development of a common e-infrastructure service catalogue. The survey was open for from 29 April until 30 June 2017 and promoted at events and through relevant online communication channels. In total 140 valid replies to the survey have been received, almost half of which come from service providers (46%) and the remaining from the current customers/users (26%) and interested stakeholders (28%). 
The replies from e-infrastructure customers/users indicate that findability and accessibility of digital services for research has been a problem for 57% of respondents. Around 59% of users/customers answering to this survey have faced difficulties in finding the right service for their needs. The main user/customer motivations to use a common service catalogue are summarised in the graph below.

 

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The answers from service providers (75%) flag that there are challenges for increasing the visibility of e-infrastructure services. An overwhelming majority of service providers (79%) also underline the effort in reaching out to new customer segments. There is a clear indication that responding providers are willing to go beyond the academic user community and try to encourage also businesses to make use of the service offering. Yet, it is acknowledged that this remains a difficult task. As other avenues for expanding the existing user base the respondents pointed to more internationalisation and widening the circle of research domains to which the digital services may be applied. The main benefits from listing services in a common catalogue from a service provider perspective are reflected in the graph below.

 

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Service Catalogue

A key objective of the project is the development of a common Service Catalogue to present in a homogeneous and harmonised way the available services offered by the wide range of European e-infrastructures to the European researchers and public-at-large. This will help address the need for both a unified list of services being available online as well as a standard and user-friendly description of all related services. 

During the spring 2017, the project partners, in collaboration with flagship European e-infrastructures, have assembled a first draft catalogue of services currently available and have also performed an initial classification of available service catalogues as part of their current state-of-play. In parallel, global marketplaces and their respective services have been systematically assessed and contacts have been initiated with e-infrastructures beyond European borders, in order to collect best practices from various market segments as well as regions from all over the world.

 

eInfraCentral Portal – prototype

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The eInfraCentral portal will be one of the major outcomes of the project, with the aim to offer a common harmonised catalogue of e-infrastructure services, a “one-stop shop” for end users to access, browse, search, compare and visualise services, a single point of reference for researchers and the broad community to provide access and make services and resources discoverable. The portal will also provide a holistic data validation/curation process for e-Infrastructure operators to register their services empowered by service exchange formats and protocols for automatic population of service information and associated KPIs. Furthermore, the platform will realise flexible and novel visualisation tools for capturing the e-Infrastructure evolution and revealing pan-European collaboration and impact. The first prototype will be released early September 2017 and will offer a browsing functionality for the catalogue of services.

 

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