The IEG is involved in RESILIENCE, a research infrastructure project for Religious Studies and related disciplines, involving twelve partner institutions from ten European countries.
The acronym stands for “REligious Studies Infrastructure: tooLs, Experts, conNections and CEnters in Europe” and the goal is a pan-European research infrastructure (RI) which provides access to sources, research results, expertise and tools for researchers and individuals interested in religion-related topics.
Digital Humanities have been transforming research in Europe and RESILIENCE aims for driving forward the digital turn in Religious Studies by stimulating the applicating of innovative methodological approaches in this field. Digital data and services designed for the needs of transdisciplinary research related to religions will be made available within a single ecosystem accessible for researchers as well as non-academics worldwide. However, RESILIENCE will not be limited to its e-infrastructure: acknowledging the need to access non-digitised material stored in different archives around the globe, RESILIENCE aims to facilitate transnational physical access as well. The bridge between physical and digital access is what makes RESILIENCE unique and different to existing RIs in the field of SSH.
The long way to an ESFRI project
Since last year, within a two-year early preparation phase funded by the EU’s funding programme Horizon 2020, the partners have worked intensively to elaborate the design of the envisioned infrastructure with the goal of being included in the ESFRI Roadmap 2021. The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) was initiated by the EU Council in order to stimulate the development and integration of research infrastructures at EU and international level. ESFRI projects are selected by the Forum based on their excellence and maturity as well as their strategic importance for the European Research Area.
The work towards RESILIENCE goes back way further than 2019. One of the initiatives leading to the design of a pan-European infrastructure is ReIRes, which the IEG and many other partners of the RESILIENCE consortium are part of (and about which my colleagues Anna Aschauer and Jaap Geraerts have written about here and here). ReIReS’ main focus has been the development of the capabilities of national RIs and European research centres to provide transnational access to their sources, resources, facilities and expertise, an effort which will be continued and developed further within RESILIENCE. Earlier initiatives to be named in this context are the European Academy of Religion and the TRES network, both initiated by the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose (FSCIRE) in Bologna, which is leader of the RESILIENCE consortium.
In the past year, with the focus on the ESFRI proposal, the vision of RESILIENCE finally took shape: in countless workshops and meetings – due to Covid mostly online – an international interdisciplinary team of scholars, researchers and experts affiliated with the 12 partner institutions refined the various aspects of the future RI: surveys have been conducted to identify the user needs, services have been designed to answer those needs, along with policies regulating the access to those; a governance model for the future organisation of the RI was created along with a sound HR strategy; a Data Management Plan was established, an impact study conducted, just to drop a few more buzzwords.
RESILIENCE’s proposal to the ESFRI Forum was finally submitted in September this year, thanks to Covid the deadline was extended from originally May. Now we hope that the hard work has paid off and RESILIENCE will be part of the ESFRI Roadmap 2021, to be announced in September next year. With the support of the national ministries and EU research funds as well as the continuous commitment of the partners, RESILIENCE can start to make the designed infrastructure a reality.
IEG’s role in RESILIENCE
The IEG is leader of Work Package 8 – Governance, HR and Access Policy. The task is to create a governance model for the future organisation of RESILIENCE. As an RI on European level, RESILIENCE will be a legal entity in its own right. The chosen legal form is the European Research Infrastructure Consortium, short ERIC, established specifically for distributed European RIs, which ensures the involvement of member states as delegates from national ministries constitute the highest decision-making body of the RI. Along with the organisational structure, WP8 drafted an HR strategy, which ensures to attract and train qualified staff for the various roles within the RI, as well as the already mentioned access policy, which defines the processes and conditions for access to the RESILIENCE services. For us this process has been a great learning opportunity which has shown which manifold skills and competences are required in the management of a research infrastructure on a European level, which is a relatively new field of work for researchers.