EBRAINS on the ESFRI Roadmap: a three-point commitment

Paweł Świeboda, CEO of EBRAINS AISBL and Director General of the Human Brain Project, on the inclusion of EBRAINS in the ESFRI Roadmap 2021, which will be launched this week


This is the week when the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) Roadmap 2021 will be launched. Following a two-year long process, the most outstanding European science facilities, determined by a thorough evaluation and selection procedure, will be presented at an event hosted by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU on 7 December: https://www.esfri.eu/esfri-events/launch-2021-esfri-roadmap. EBRAINS, the emerging Research Infrastructure for brain science, is proud to have been included in the latest edition of the Roadmap.

This is a recognition of achievement for the Human Brain Project teams developing EBRAINS. As part of its mission of taking brain research into the digital age, they have created a state-of-the art set of tools in the area of data management and curation, brain atlases, modeling and simulation, brain-inspired technology and medical informatics. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their vision and dedication which is bearing fruit today.

Inclusion on the ESFRI Roadmap is also a reflection of the maturity of our services, since all candidate Research Infrastructure are assessed against a demanding set of criteria, that include scientific excellence, pan-European relevance, e-needs, preparatory work and planning, management and human resources policy, finances, risks, socio-economic impact as well as user strategy and access policy. We are pleased to have received high grades in most of the categories of assessment.

For us, being part of the ESFRI Roadmap is above everything a new type of commitment. First of all, to assist Europe’s scientific community in bringing the effects of technological revolution into the lab and enabling breakthroughs. From neuro-imaging to high-end analytical tools for working with data, entirely new capabilities are open today to brain research. The scientific method itself is evolving with the hypothesis-generating approach gaining ground, made possible by application of algorithms to large data sets. Although developed within an EU flagship Human Brain Project, EBRAINS is opening up to new user communities and is ready to work with both individual researchers as well as large scientific endeavors, providing assistance of our High-Level Support Team through designated workflows.

Secondly, our commitment has to do with creating a positive-sum dynamic of investment. By integrating the best-in-class tools developed nationally into a pan-European and globally engaged Research Infrastructure, we provide what no single European country could provide on its own. As a distributed infrastructure, EBRAINS will create additional value by pulling expertise together, relying on the fact that different countries have different fields of specialization, from facilities for human brain atlasing, HPC and neuromorphic computing, clinical neuroscience, data management, brain simulation, all the way to neurotechnology and cognition. This is a source of savings for all participating countries since rather than budgeting for development of the hosting services or new software tools, national funding agencies can factor into the equation the existence of EBRAINS with its wide-ranging provision of services.

Thirdly, we reconfirm our commitment to excellence which is at the heart of the ESFRI process. EBRAINS will provide best-in-class tools and services, ensuring high level of adaptability and flexibility to be able to answer emerging demands of the community, in line with the principles of Open science. As an example of this development, we are in the process of equipping EBRAINS with a new service for sensitive medical brain data, substantiating further our engagement in three areas – neuroscience, brain health and brain-inspired technology.

Joining the ESFRI Roadmap is not a one-off event but a long-term process. Its aim is to equip scientists with the tools they need in pushing the boundaries of knowledge, on the basis of truly pan-European collaboration and global outlook. EBRAINS is thrilled to be part of this journey.