Launch of the beta-version of the MERIL portal

The MERIL-2 project launched a beta-version of the new MERIL portal in Rome on the 20th of June, 2017, in its first public event, which welcomed a diverse group of research infrastructure (RI) stakeholders.

The MERIL (Mapping of the European Research Infrastructure Landscape) portal provides access to an inventory of openly accessible research infrastructures (RIs) of ‘greater than national relevance’ in Europe across all scientific domains, including the humanities and social sciences. As it stands, MERIL covers 900 RIs that have been validated by national authorities in virtually all European countries. Supported by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 (grant 654296), The MERIL-2 project will further this initiative by increasing RI coverage and upgrading the portal. To this end, the MERIL team will redesign the data model, expand the database, undertake a new data-collection campaign, add data-visualisation capabilities to the portal, and conduct a strategic communications campaign. 

In his opening message at the launch event, Salvatore La Rosa, a MERIL Advisory Committee member from the Ministry for Education, University and Research in Italy, spoke about the importance of a well done European RI mapping exercise in supporting RIs at different levels (in terms of public awareness, user interest, RI policy-making and RI financing). One important MERIL use case he brought up is the use of MERIL data within the framework of RI evaluation plans, which are notoriously difficult to structure. Mr. La Rosa emphasized that the presented beta version of the new MERIL portal is not the end result of the project, which has just entered its second year of implementation, and that MERIL is an ongoing process that depends on the RI community’s engagement. He suggested that developing periodic initiatives to collect up-to-date RI performance-related information is an important element of drawing up accurate national roadmaps and maps of resources. 

Sharing a historical perspective, Jean-Claude Worms, Chief Executive of the European Science Foundation, addressed the origins of the idea of mapping European research infrastructures, which came up when the Member Organisation Forum on Research Infrastructures of the European Science Foundation brought together, for the first time, European national agencies for joint discussions of policy on RIs in 2010. The MERIL initiative has advanced a great deal since its conception, and the two remaining years for the MERIL-2 project should bring a consolidation of best practices to collect, store and use European RI performance-related data. Ana Helman, coordinator of the MERIL project, emphasized the added value of MERIL for RI coordinators in terms of showcasing RIs - demonstrating how open the RIs are in terms of collaborations, data provision, etc. 

The beta-version of the MERIL-2 portal was presented by Vasilis Bonis, ‎a software engineer at the National Documentation Centre/National Hellenic Research Foundation, and technical project manager for MERIL-2 portal development. He emphasized that data is the driving force for the portal development, and that metadata plays a big role in MERIL. Importantly, striving to follow the current discussions on information systems’ interoperability, the MERIL database is built according to current research information system (CRIS) standards. 

In his keynote speech, Spencer L. Shorte, the founder of Core Technologies for Life Sciences (CTLS), highlighted the role of support actions in improving the scientific output as he analysed the case of the Pasteur International Network – a distributed research infrastructure coordinated by France. He concluded that innovative and smart RI design and management is key for optimisation.

An engaging panel discussion at the end of the event examined and expanded on topics such as: 

  1. The MERIL project’s challenges; 
  2. Inter-collaboration between RI-support projects such as InRoad, STRESFRI, RITrain, RISCAPE, and ESFRI; 
  3. The usefulness of the member state representative network (the MERIL National Data Intermediaries’ network), which ensures a more accurate picture of RIs indexed MERIL; 
  4. Harmonized RI output data reporting; 
  5. MERIL interdisciplinarity and inclusiveness (collecting data about small, mid- and large-size RIs)); 
  6. Interoperability of RI information systems; 
  7. The future of MERIL; 
  8. The intersection between public and private sector research.

The closing message concluded that initiatives like MERIL acquire value over time. As RIs are largely funded publicly, they share a responsibility to report back to the public about their outputs and performance, and MERIL is a convenient platform to carry out such reporting in a harmonized way. 

You can visit the MERIL portal at and follow the MERIL-2 project on Twitter @MERILdatabase


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