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Supporting EOSC
Co-funded by the European Union
Co-funded by UKRI

EOSC Winter School: Skills4EOSC participation report

| Sara Di Giorgio | news

The EOSC Winter School 2024 took place in Thessaloniki, Greece, from January 29 to February 1. The event brought together 118 representatives from 21 EOSC-related projects across Europe to explore synergies and common opportunities aimed at advancing EOSC as an open, trusted federation of infrastructure and an evolving ecosystem, fostering the creation of the “Web of FAIR data and interoperable core services”.

The School started with an opening Plenary Session, followed by dynamic discussions that integrated diverse perspectives, organised into six thematic areas to better address insights and experiences.

During the meeting, discussions spanned policy recommendations, concrete case studies, and information exchange on future models to be considered in the path towards the next SRIA 2.0. 

Short-term objectives focused on ensuring structured collaboration between the Task Forces of the EOSC Association and EOSC projects, emphasising hands-on, technical cooperation within the six identified Opportunity Areas (PIDs, Metadata, Ontologies & Interoperability, FAIR Assessment & Alignment, User & Resource Environments, Skills, Training, Rewards, Recognition & Upskilling, and Open Scholarly Communication). Brief but insightful descriptions of these OAs along with current developments and avenues for further impact were presented to attendees in the early plenary sessions.

Mid-term goals centred on facilitating seamless project onboarding and shaping EOSC’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) 2.0 through inter-project collaborations. Long-term objectives aimed at maximising the impact of Horizon Europe’s EOSC-related projects on ESOC deployment and sustainability.

During the plenary sessions, special attention was given to the OSCARS project (Open Science Clusters Action for Research & Society) launched on 1 January 2024, which aims to bring together top European Research Infrastructures (RIs) to promote Open Science in Europe. OSCARS will consolidate achievements into enduring interdisciplinary services and practices,  focusing on domain-based research/user communities and fostering scientist engagement in EOSC. OSCARS will launch two Open Calls in March and November 2024, totalling approximately 16 million Euros, to select third parties for innovative Open Science projects or services that drive FAIR-data-intensive research uptake across the European Research Area (ERA).

In addition to the plenary sessions, a sixth session was held alongside the others, dedicated to the INFRAEOSC projects: Sustainable Pathways to Exploitation of Key Results. This session saw active participation from representatives of the European Commission, who shared their expectations and recommendations regarding the outcomes of Horizon projects. The EC's presentation underscored the importance of communication, dissemination, and exploitation, alongside outlining general requirements and sustainability considerations. Notable highlights included the showcase of free tools from the European Commission for disseminating results, as well as a focus on monitoring project outcomes and identifying impacts related to EOSC, utilizing the EOSC Implementation Roadmap as a key tool for this purpose. This roadmap is viewed by the European Commission as instrumental in demonstrating the contributions of the EOSC Partnership's investments to delivering the EOSC Strategic R&I Agenda.

During this session, the Financial Sustainability Task Force presented a statement on EOSC funding, outlining the requirements for the future EOSC legal entity and making eight recommendations for funding. Estimates of potential future EOSC costs from 2027 onwards were also provided. Participants engaged in discussions on topics such as IPR Governance and Management, particularly regarding their impact on the exploitation of key results. Furthermore, as part of the sustainability pursuit, the Sustainable Exploitation Planning (SEP) methodology was introduced for developing sustainability plans based on Key Exploitable Results (KERs). Among the case studies conducted during the winter school, the Skills4EOSC project stood out. For the adopted KER activity, the Coordination Network of Competence Centres, led by Raimundas Tsuminauskas – PSNC, was chosen for testing the SEP methodology.

This session harmonized seamlessly with the broader discussions at the EOSC Winter School, aligning with the overarching goals of fostering collaboration, advancing EOSC's development, and ensuring its long-term sustainability.

Report about the Opportunity Area 5 Skills, training, rewards, recognition and upscaling

Alongside the plenary sessions, the six parallel sessions rolled up and the Skills4EOSC team actively organised and participated in the Opportunity Area 5 Skills, training, rewards, recognition and upscaling run from Tuesday 30.1. 14:00 to Wednesday 31.1.2024 19:00.  

The Opportunity Area 5 Session focused on training and upskilling activities, featuring representatives from leading projects such as Skills4EOSC, EOSC4Cancer, and EuroScienceGateway. These projects showcased their training programs aimed at developing a FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) Open Science training ecosystem.

The session began with a comprehensive review of past, present, and future training/skills-related activities undertaken by the participating projects. This exercise aimed to understand the current landscape and identify areas for collaboration and alignment. The mapping exercise helped synchronise project goals with the Multi-Annual Roadmap (MAR) and the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), ensuring alignment with EOSC's objectives. A gap analysis was conducted to identify areas of improvement and shared solutions were drafted to address critical issues. These discussions focused on data stewardship, curriculum development, and long-term sustainability, aiming to foster collaboration and synergies among projects.

Recommendations and proposed actions

1. Data Stewardship and curricula development

During the session, the group discussed the importance of professionalising data stewardship and developing relevant curricula. Skills4EOSC will collaborate with RDA special interest groups to ensure alignment with best practices and standards. Recommendations and examples of data stewardship skills, training, and curricula from various EU countries and universities, are needed. It was also recognised that data steward networks and competence centres are central to making Open Science the norm in research. 

2. Consider the adoption of EuroScience Gateway / Galaxy Training Network (GTN)

A significant part of the discussion revolved around the analysis of GTN models and their potential integration into existing projects like Skills4EOSC and EOSC-life. The group explored opportunities to align GTN with RDA standards for training resource models, emphasising the importance of interoperability and compatibility across different platforms (see relevant information about GTN

3. Ensuring long-term sustainability:

Ensuring the long-term sustainability of projects’ outcomes emerged as a key focus of discussion. Participants analysed various models for post-project responsibility and ownership, emphasising the need for continuous support and maintenance beyond projects’ life cycles. The Skills4EOSC Competence Centres Network was recognised as a valid solution. To progress in this direction, the definition of competence centres, including their operational modalities and integration with other projects and initiatives, were raised. Various interpretations, including that of Skills4EOSC, were discussed. It was recognised that various types of competence centres serve various needs, and work should not be duplicated unnecessarily. Skills4EOSC competence centre ICDI in Italy was discussed as an example. It was acknowledged that local context, pre-existing arrangements among local organisations, and the envisioning of competence centre as central, distributed or abstract will have important determining roles  Alignment with the OSCARS Competence Centres is necessary: Skills4EOSC and OSCARS are developing competence centre networks that should be aligned and supported by the EOSC Working Group on Training and Skills. Efforts should be made to align OSCARS’ model for thematic/disciplinary competence centres with Skills4EOSC pilots. Discussions revolved around the implications of the EOSC node concept and strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of initiatives, especially after the conclusion of the Skills4EOSC project. Additionally, opportunities were explored to expand the competence centres network and engage other non-project stakeholders to maximize impact and ensure broader dissemination of Open Science practices within the European scientific community. The suggestion to establish an advisory board or a forum of competence centres was put forward as a possible solution to maintain and update projects’ outcomes over time.

4. Engagement with universities

The group explored strategies for engaging with universities to gather information on existing training programs. By leveraging existing models and networks, participants sought to enhance collaboration between academia and EOSC-related projects, to foster a more integrated and comprehensive approach to skills development.

5. Re-engineering of the EOSC Portal and the EOSC Training Catalogue

Discussions centred on re-engineering the EOSC Portal and Training Catalogue, realised by EOSC Future, to better serve the community's needs. Participants highlighted the importance of involving the OA5 expert group in the development process, undergoing the procurement activities, ensuring alignment with RDA standards and the development of shared participation rules. Consideration was also given to the categorisation and navigation options within the portal, with an emphasis on user experience and accessibility. Continuing to create isolated repositories, which are also usually snapshots in time, was deemed inadequate to users’ needs. The Skills4EOSC FAIR by Design Methodology and its incorporation of connecting and continued updating of resources was presented as a way to address this. The welcome participation of other projects through the current co-creation process was expressed. It was suggested that the GTN infrastructure might be a model from which to draw some inspiration.

6. Accreditation, recognition, and assessment

The session addressed the complex issues surrounding accreditation, recognition, and assessment in the context of EOSC. Skills4EOSC presented an initial framework, starting the discussion on standardisation and alignment across projects. Methods of recognition and accreditation currently used by GTN and Elixir were also presented and discussed.

Efforts should be made to align certification and accreditation methodologies with other relevant projects, with a focus on promoting wider compliance and coordination across the ecosystem.

Next Steps

Looking ahead, the OA5 group expressed its commitment to continued collaboration and action. Plans were made to organise a follow-up meeting to build on the discussions and identify concrete steps for implementation. A main focus will be to develop further the concept of competence centres and how to manage, utilise, integrate and harmonise them. Additionally, the group emphasised the importance of liaising with relevant EOSC actors to ensure alignment and progress on key action points.