The first Eastern Partnership E-infrastructure Conference, EaPEC, was given a 5-star rating by participants in a feedback survey. The conference provided opportunities for human networking and exchanging useful information on a range of topics around computer networks, high performance computing resources, databases, and software in use for various areas of science.
Held in Tbilisi, Georgia, the event aimed to serve as a platform for collaboration on policy and research, and to support community building in e-infrastructures between the Eastern Partnership region and the EU member states.
Focusing on e-infrastructures for Open Science in Europe, speakers led interactive discussions and an exchange of ideas in research areas such as physics and seismology, biomedical sciences, robotics, HPC and data analytics, climate and ecology.
EaPEC attracted around 80 attendees from 16 countries and more than 50 organisations, including national research and education networks (NRENs), universities, research institutes, government, NGOs and representatives of industry and the press. Their feedback about this event and the topics they would like to see covered in future EaPEC conferences is being taken into account in planning towards a new event in 2017.
At the Tbilisi conference, participants were welcomed by the general director of Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation, Marine Chitashvili, and by the Georgian Minister of Education and Science Aleksandre Jejelava.
I believe that developing science infrastructure is one of the top priorities and building links with partner and European countries; for these links to be based on science, technology and development is great to see.”
A welcome via a live video link from Brussels was also given by Lawrence Meredith, Director of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), which provides funding for the EaPConnect project that organised the EaPEC event.
Connectivity between the EU and our Eastern Neighbourhood is a priority.”
Other EC representatives, Jean Luc Dorel and Enrique Gomez of the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) also joined remotely, in a panel session on opportunities and challenges in e-infrastructures and Open Science for the Eastern Partnership.
We welcome this event as a key triggering event for stimulating the use of the infrastructure.”
An inspiring example of research and e-infrastructure usage was provided in the keynote speech about the Human Brain Project, which is a European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship. Dirk Pleiter, research group leader at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Regensburg, Germany, explained the project’s infrastructure and activities and welcomed greater connectivity and research collaboration between Europe and the Eastern Partnership countries.
Events like this one help to transport knowledge about the Human Brain project. I hope this will lead to incentives for scientists in this region to look for opportunities which are offered through the project.”
First regional ‘Enlighten Your Research’ contest
Another highlight of EaPEC 2016 was the presentation of the Eastern Partnership region’s first ‘Enlighten Your Research’ (EYR) awards. This programme invites researchers to submit proposals that highlight how access to advanced networks, technologies and computation would significantly improve their research and discovery process.
Presenting the awards to the first regional EYR winners, Walter van Dijk of SURFnet explained the evolution of the programme since its start in the Netherlands in 2007. The 2016 EaPConnect call for submissions received applications from all six of the countries partnered in the project. Two awards were presented: to Yuras Hetsevich of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, for a proposal to create a mobile application that uses speech systems as well as audio and visual imagery to inform visitors about the history of cities; and to Naira Kocharyan of ASNET-AM on behalf of Armen Poghosyan of the Bioinformatics Group of the International Scientific-Educational Center of NAS RA, Armenia, who won with the proposal to study molecular dynamics of surfactants and phospholipid nanosystems.
A video of this session, including presentations about the winning proposals, is available online.
This first EaPEC conference was held on 6-7 October 2016, hosted in cooperation with the University of Georgia by GRENA, the Georgian network for research and education. GRENA is a beneficiary partner of the EU-funded EaPConnect project, which organised the conference.