Easier access to research infrastructure for the European atmospheric science community

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Improving access to large facilities for research on climate and air quality and optimizing use are the objectives of the European ATMO-ACCESS project. Véronique Riffault and Stéphane Sauvage, researchers at IMT Nord Europe, one of the project’s 38 partner institutions, explain the issues involved.

What was the context for developing the ATMO-ACCESS project?

Stéphane Sauvage – The ATMO-ACCESS project responds to a H2020-INFRAIA call for pilot projects specifically opened for certain research infrastructure (RI) targeted by the call, to facilitate access for a wide community of users and develop innovative access services that are harmonized at the European level.  

IMT Nord Europe’s participation in this project is connected to its significant involvement in the ACTRIS (Aerosol, Clouds, and Trace Gases Research InfraStructure) RI. ACTRIS is a distributed RI bringing together laboratories of excellence and observation and exploration platforms, to support research on climate and air quality. It helps improve understanding of past, present and future changes in atmospheric composition and the physico-chemical processes that contribute to regional climate variability

What is the goal of ATMO-ACCESS?

S.S. – ATMO-ACCESS is intended for the extended atmospheric science community. It involves three RI: ACTRISICOS and IAGOS, combining stationary and mobile observation and exploration platforms, calibration centers and data centers. It’s a pilot project aimed at developing a new model of integrating activities for this infrastructure, in particular by providing a series of recommendations for harmonized, innovative access procedures to help establish a sustainable overall framework .

What resources will be used to reach this goal?

S.S. – The project has received €15 million in funding , including €100 K for IMT Nord Europe where four research professors and a research engineer are involved. ATMO-ACCESS will provide scientific and industrial users with physical and remote access to 43 operational European atmospheric research facilities, including ground observation stations and simulation chambers as well as mobile facilities and calibration centers which are essential components of RI.

Why is it important to provide sustainable access to research facilities in the field of atmospheric science?

Véronique Riffault – The goal  is to optimize the use of large research facilities, pool efforts and avoid duplication for streamlining and environmental transition purposes, while promoting scientific excellence and maintaining a high level in the transfer of knowledge and expertise, international collaborations, training for young scientists and the contribution of RI to innovative technologies and economic development.

What role do IMT Nord Europe researchers play in this consortium?

V.R. – IMT Nord Europe researchers are responsible for developing virtual training tools for the users of these research facilities and their products. Within this scientific community, IMT Nord Europe has recognized expertise in developing innovative learning resources (Massive Open Online Course-MOOC, serious games), based on the resources the school has already created in collaboration with its Educational Engineering center, in particular a first MOOC in English on the causes and impacts of air pollution, and a serious game, which should be incorporated into a second module of this MOOC currently in development.

As part of ATMO-ACCESS, a pilot SPOC (Small Private Online Course) will present the benefits and issues related to this infrastructure and a serious game will apply the data proposed by observatories and stored in data centers, while video tutorials for certain instruments or methodologies will help disseminate good practices.

Who are your partners and how will you collaborate scientifically?

V.R. – The project is coordinated by CNRS and brings together 38 partner institutions from 19 European countries. We’ll be working with scientific colleagues from a variety of backgrounds: calibration centers responsible for ensuring measurement quality, data centers for the technical development of resources,  and of course, the community as a whole to best respond to expectations and  engage in a continuous improvement process. In addition to the academic world, other users will be able to benefit from the tools developed through the ATMO-ACCESS project: major international stakeholders and public authorities (ESA, EEA, EUMETSAT, EPA, governments, etc.) as well as the private sector.

The project launch meeting has just been held. What are the next important steps?

V.R. – That’s right, the project was launched in mid-May. The first meeting for the working group in which IMT Nord Europe is primarily involved is scheduled for after the summer break. Our first deliverable will be the interdisciplinary SPOC for atmospheric science, planned for less than two years from now. The project will also launch its first call for access to RI intended for atmosphere communities and beyond.

Interview by Véronique Charlet

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