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< Contents ERCIM News No. 62, July 2005

Coordinating IST Research Across Europe

by Simon Lambert

The CISTRANA project will help to enhance European competitiveness through international coordination of IST research activities

The future prosperity of Europe depends on its competing successfully in a number of key knowledge-based industries, of which the so-called information society technologies (IST) form a large economic block. To achieve this economic success in the longer term, it is necessary to circumvent the barriers posed by national boundaries and differing research policies and priorities, and to bring together a critical mass of resources from across Europe to research key technologies.

The CISTRANA project is a Coordination Action under the European Commission’s IST programme, with the aim of achieving coordination of national IST programmes with each other and with European programmes in order to improve the impact of all research and development efforts in Europe and to reinforce European competitiveness in this area.

CISTRANA is of three years duration, and involves five partners from across Europe. DLR in Germany is the coordinator, and the others are TEKES (Finland), NKTH (Hungary), ANRT (France) and CCLRC (UK, an ERCIM institute). The objectives of the project are to develop a map of the national research landscape in the area of IST; to pinpoint research topic areas and strategic themes where cooperation is essential; and to establish sustainable mechanisms including common methodologies and procedures to set up trans-national coordination initiatives between different countries.

It is evident that active participation and commitment of stakeholders is essential for the success of CISTRANA. A Steering Committee has been set up, with members from around thirty countries, that gives advice on information collection and guidance on priorities and implementation. The Steering Committee acts as the interface between the CISTRANA project and national ministries. Each of the CISTRANA partners, with the exception of CCLRC whose role is explained below, is a Country Group Representative, with the responsibility of gathering and assessing information collected at the national level. The information itself is provided by National Support Organisations, one in each country, selected by the Steering Committee member.

The project started in September 2004 and so far a comprehensive survey has been conducted about national research policies, programmes and other activities. The response has been very good, and the results are currently being assessed to feed into other project activities. A series of workshops are being planned during the life of the project, aimed at various target audiences, with themes such as impact assessment, best practice in multi-national programme collaboration, and portals for information dissemination.

An additional important output of the CISTRANA project is a portal to IST research information. A study conducted for the European Commission addressed the perceived difficulty in accessing information on IST research at national levels. The main findings were that there are important barriers to accessing relevant information, including a lack of consistent thematic search possibilities; a lack of relevant information; and a lack of comparability between information sources. It concluded that the overall presence of information was insufficient in comparison with users&Mac226; requirements&Mac226; and that the barriers can be largely overcome by establishing an IST research portal as a gateway providing access to national IST RTD information.

CCLRC is the partner responsible for developing the portal. The aim is to give access to diverse kinds of information about national programmes, policies and projects, either gathered specially for CISTRANA or in existing national databases. A system architecture has been developed that is sufficiently flexible to accommodate these possibilities, and in particular allows different options to national database owners for how they can make their data available via the portal. The CERIF standard is of key importance here: it is the Common Research Information Format that has been developed over many years as a recommendation to member states of the EU for Current Research Information Systems. It is expected that the portal will be of great interest to various user communities including policy makers, researchers and those in the industrial world, offering a way of conveniently finding out what is going on in other countries.

Project website:
CERIF standard:

Please contact:
Simon Lambert, CCLRC
Tel: +44 1235 445716