A public database dubbed MERIL (Mapping of the European Research Infrastructure Landscape) has been launched with the aim of providing a comprehensive inventory of high quality research infrastructures in Europe across all scientific domains, and accessible through an interactive online portal. Initiated in October 2010 with funding from the European Commission and significant input from European Science Foundation (ESF) member organisations and other stakeholders, including the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), MERIL has been developed to complement the work of ESFRI by producing a survey of existing facilities that could inform recommendations on future investment requirements for large-scale European facilities.
Research infrastructures indexed in the MERIL portal have been identified as being of high quality and of greater-than-national relevance by National Data Intermediaries, who are defined as people in ministries or national funding agencies with responsibility for research infrastructures in various domains, with normally one coordinator among them. The full list is available here. In addition, the research facilities are also required to offer access to external scientific users, nationally and internationally, through a transparent selection and admission process.
‘Research excellence requires high-quality facilities which not only support research but also create an attractive environment for researchers. MERIL is a unique resource for the scientific community and we hope it will foster greater interaction, mobility and a sense of partnership across the region,’ commented Martin Hynes, chief executive, European Science Foundation.
Peter Fletcher, head of International Relations at the Science and Technology Facilities Council in the UK, added: ‘There have been several attempts to build such a database in the past but they have always struggled with fact that they were conducted as isolated projects, which provided variable results. Funded by the European Commission, however, MERIL meets the need for a simple-to-use, clear map that provides the valuable information that people really need in an accessible form.
‘It will rely on the continuous input of facility managers to maintain its value. Collectively, they can show the scale of the research infrastructure base of Europe, so we encourage Europe’s scientific community to embrace this excellent tool and contribute to its success.’
The MERIL project was initially funded for two years (2010-2012) by the European Commission under the coordination of the ESF, and is being maintained in 2013 with the financial support of ESF’s member organisations. The database will be continuously open to the addition of research infrastructures of any size and profile that meet the criteria for inclusion in order to provide a better picture of Europe’s existing scientific capacities and foster collaboration within the European scientific community.