This view of ERCIM comes from what is best described as a very interesting perspective. I am within five weeks of retirement as Chairman and Chief Executive of CCLRC; a time to review the many different activities that have shaped the life of my Laboratories including membership of ERCIM. RAL has been in ERCIM almost since its creation by INRIA, CWI and GMD. I have been on the Board of Directors (BoD) throughout and have seen ERCIM develop.
RAL's involvement in ERCIM is different. All other members are concentrated in Mathematics and Information Systems; CCLRC is a broad-based physics and technology organisation. Formally, the part of CCLRC actively engaged with ERCIM has ~150 people (~10% of CCLRC total). However, the R&D activities in materials science, particle physics, space science etc are critically dependent on our IS activities. There is a much larger ERCIM-related component sub-surface in the CCLRC iceberg than that visible to other ERCIM members. CCLRC can be expected to be a committed and enthusiastic member of ERCIM for the foreseeable future.
There have been many changes since RAL joined. From four national laboratories with a vision to improve Informatics and Mathematics R&D in Europe it grew, formed an EEIG and had aspirations as a high-profile contractor to the European Commission (EC) and a high-profile partner with European industry. Changes in the EC discouraged this role for the EEIG, although it is still important and gives a formal legal identity.
ERCIM developed its vision to be a meeting point for organisations representing the Informatics and Mathematics communities in each country represented by its members who, in turn, share experiences and form a club based on joint aspirations. Through the vigour of its managers, the EC now accept from ERCIM briefing and policy documents so some of the earlier objectives are realised.
The most important feature of ERCIM is the Working Groups (WGs). They produce added-value for members; they and linked through them the ERCIM Fellows are the true motor for collaborations and it is in them that the future strength of ERCIM is to be found. Their output demonstrates ERCIM's value to Europe's academic, industrial and commercial communities. This vision of the future is, I believe, shared by my fellow Directors.
I retire with many good memories of ERCIM. I have valued particularly the openness and friendship of colleagues on the BoD. Working colleagues became friends not only for me but also for my wife who has been able to accompany me sometimes to ERCIM venues. I have appreciated greatly the dedication of the Executive Committee who wrestle with the sometimes near-impossible task of turning the advice and wishes of the BoD into programmes and actions.
ERCIM has a great deal to offer. It will grow 'nothing succeeds like success'. I am convinced that my successor Dr Bert Westwood will find ERCIM to be a stimulating organisation to be part of and will value the friendship and advice of his BoD colleagues. I wish ERCIM well; it deserves to be successful and will be as long as the enthusiasm and dedication of its members and the timeliness and professionalism of its WGs continue to mark ERCIM as a key player in the European Informatics and Mathematics scene.
Paul R. Williams