ERCIM News No.36 - January 1999

We live in interesting times. The way we work, communicate, trade, educate, learn, entertain ourselves and the way in which countries are governed is rapidly changing. Only five years ago few people outside the academic world knew what the internet was. Now, millions are surfing the web. Change is all around us, at an unprecedented pace. And this is only the beginning! I believe that we are on the verge of a fundamental breakthrough in human evolution.

It is evident that research is playing an important role in the process of change that we see all around us. Research creates new opportunities. At the same time, change itself generates new problems, requiring more research:
• the rapidly increasing number of users of the internet and the development towards streaming media causes congestion, so we have to develop a high bandwidth, reliable infrastructure
• the millennium bug has raised awareness of how dependent we are on all kinds of automated systems; the rapidly increasing number of embedded systems in all kinds of products is only aggravating the need for methods to check the correctness of software systems
• among the millions of people using the internet, there will be some that will try to use the internet for criminal purposes, so we have to find methods for monitoring and preventing such unwanted behaviour, and develop countermeasures and methods for secure payment systems and privacy protection
• existing legislation is not suitable to regulate and support the new kind of transactions in the global community on internet.
And these are only a few of the new problems.

Europe has always played an important role in research in information and communication technology and ERCIM now actively addresses problems such as those mentioned above among many others. ERCIM, with its potential of six thousand researchers, represents a major force on the European research scene. ERCIM members have a joint ambition: to provide Europe with the best research in information and communication technologies, contributing to the development of the information society and to the creation of wealth and well-being.

With ERCIM we are building an infrastructure to facilitate information sharing and co-operative work, thus creating a huge virtual laboratory. ERCIM members act as national nodes, representing the ICT research community in their country, in a truly European research network. ERCIM is an open network: its members co-operate with universities and industry, not just in Europe, but all over the world. ERCIM institutes co-operate in working groups and in joint projects, thus consistently increasing our consortium’s internal cohesion. Moreover, ERCIM has a fellowship programme and stimulates exchange of researchers among its members.

The European Union recognizes the signs of the time and is getting ready for the challenges of the new information society with its 5th Framework Programme that is about to start. ERCIM is prepared to meet the challenge!

Gerard van Oortmerssen

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