by Bob Hopgood
This August will complete my two-year term of office as the first ERCIM Executive Committee Chairman which started on 7 July 1992! In the end I will have done the job for just over 3 years. Prior to that, ERCIM had run with a Steering Committee progressing actions given to them by the Directors. The growth from 4 to 7 members over the two previous years had meant a need for devolving some of the responsibilities.
I have enjoyed the experience and certainly leave ERCIM in a different state from when I arrived. A major request from the Directors was to strengthen ERCIM. The establishment of the EEIG and the increase in members from 7 to 14 mean that has largely been achieved. We were also successful in attracting over 1MECUs from the Human Capital and Mobility programme which allowed us to double the number of ERCIM Fellows. The Graphics and Database Networks also received awards so that both have been active in bringing the ERCIM partners closer together.
We were also asked to increase ERCIM's visibility and we did this through a number of Strategic Reports commenting on the Fourth Framework Programme while it was evolving. We created the Research Reports and Workshop Report Series. The Newsletter was already in existence but it has gradually established itself as a widely read publication throughout Europe.
They are probably the major achievements but the establishment of the internal mobility programme, the annual Symposia, the new Working Groups and other activities have all been useful in getting more integration between the partners and achieving better relations with SMEs.
Probably the major failure has been the integration of the members into a single virtual laboratory. Even before the ERCIM Executive Committee was formed, there was a Networking Working Group charged with providing high speed connections between the members and this is still a regular item on the Executive Committee Agenda. The excuse early on was that the new ATM network would solve all the problems. They are still using the same excuse but it gets less credible by the year! If we had not listened to the networking gurus we might be further along than we are.
My other regret is that the EDGE project was never submitted to the Commission as a major project. The concept was good and much effort was put into creating a coherent environment with a range of demonstrators. It would have been a major asset to Europe and could have demonstrated what we could achieve working together. Unfortunately, changes in the breakdown of the Fourth Framework Programme and the abandonment of TIPs by the Commission lead to the decision to split it into a number of separate projects which look as though they will individually fail as the coherence of the complete project has been lost.
I wish Christos well in his one-year appointment as the next Executive Committee Chair (note the flexibility of the ERCIM year, Christos!). There is commitment to the provision of an ERCIM Virtual Laboratory (see article page 3) with strong support from the Directors and it should be a challenging period for the Executive Committee in achieving that.
Finally, let me thank all the members of the Executive Committee for their help and encouragement, particularly Alain Michard from whom I gained a great deal of knowledge on how to interact with the CEC.