eLTER National Coordinators exiting pandemic times
1 April 2022
Looking backwards eLTER can duly state to have made the best of the time since Covid-19 hit the globe in March 2020. In teams from 26 countries we have elaborated many components of the eLTER Research Infrastructure´s foundation. Reasonably sized groups of established teams have partly been even more efficient, when virtually collaborating on concrete tasks. However, we all have experienced the limitations of virtual interaction beyond certain group sizes, in attracting and integrating new experts and – specifically – when working on critical questions or complex matters.
Elaborating the design of eLTER´s in-situ facilities (categories of sites and platforms) and developing the Integrated Governance of the future eLTER ERIC does belong to these matters. They need undisturbed discussion time and varying formats to give everyone the chance to contribute, speak up and raise the concerns to be solved towards concepts agreeable across >20 countries.
As for the categories of eLTER sites and platforms: What shall be the scientific scope of the different site categories? How to deal with varying scientific foci? Which research challenges do the sites need to be fit for? What are the required fundamental observational data? How many sites do we need within one LTSER Platform? How can we balance between feasible criteria and eLTER´s vision of a Whole System Approach?
With respect to eLTER’s future Integrated Governance: What are the best structural elements for our governance to enable transparent and efficient decision making across partner countries, the scientific user communities, eLTER RI operations and the wider set of associated sites? How can we achieve a fair balance between contributions and benefits? How to interface with a wide range of user communities? How to enable an operable but also reflexive RI capable of dynamically responding to emerging challenges?
For these questions we have to find solutions agreeable across all eLTER networks (partner countries). For this reason, concrete options elaborated by expert teams of the eLTER PPP and eLTER PLUS project had since months to be discussed with the national coordinators. They have long-term insider knowledge of the national networks and communities needs.
The physical meeting first planned for 28/29 February 2022 had again to be transformed into a virtual meeting (“pre-Uppsala”), which we used to provide comprehensive background information, and collect first fundamental feedback from the countries. The outcomes were integrated into the discussion papers for the first physical National eLTER Coordinators meeting since 2019. It was held on invitation of SLU in Uppsala, Sweden, 28-29 March.
All open matters for the first discussion paper on eLTER Site Categories were clarified. The NCs agreed on a robust set of mandatory criteria and a second group of customizable characteristics, where site operators have more than one choice for designing their in-situ facilities, but then need to provide scientific justifications.
Several fundamental bodies of the eLTER ERIC Integrated Governance were drafted, including the National Networks Assembly, the User Forum and the Sites and Platforms Forum.