Projects such EGI-InSPIRE, EMI or StratusLab are funded by the European Commission through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which is one of the key tools to drive research and innovation initiatives as a coherent set of actions to achieve long-term visions for the benefits of the European Union.
FP7, designed to realise the vision set out by the Lisbon Strategy (to make the European Union the most dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world) will end in 2013, when it will be replaced by the Eight Framework Program (FP8, 2014-2020). EU2020, the long-term strategy adopted last year by the European Council for the current decade, is driving the design of FP8.
But how are these framework programmes defined? How do politicians decide the right set of policies in order to achieve the expected economic, social and environmental consequences for the European Union?
Two main activities lead this process: 1) consultation with other EU institutions, in particular the European Parliament, and the EU Member States, as well as by the scientific community, industry and all stakeholders in European research; 2) impact assessment, which is a process that prepares evidence on the advantages and disadvantages of possible policy options by assessing their potential impacts.
Concerning the latter point, several methodologies and strategies are possible for performing such evaluations, therefore the European Commission developed guidelines to support a standardised approach.
How do we evaluate the socio-economic impact of EU-funded projects related to e-Infrastructures for research in Europe?
The ERINA+ project aims at providing the answer through the development of a self-assessment methodology and the application of this to 20 EU-funded projects. Last Monday, 14 March, myself and Steven attended the first focus group in Brussels to get more insight about the methodology and its applicability to EGI-InSPIRE. In the upcoming EGI User Forum, a dedicated workshop will be the chance to continue the discussion in an open session.
Impact assessment is considered more and more important to keep EU policies effective and ensure transparency, accountability and cost-effectiveness. On the other hand, evaluating socio-economic consequences of large projects such as EGI-InSPIRE is not an easy task. A right balance needs to be found between richness of indicators and the required effort to be measured. But we need to play this game so that, at the right time, we'll be ready for: "Show me the impact!"