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Changing Politics and Technologies of Big Science and Research Infrastructures

European Politics
European Union
Governance
Integration
Public Policy
Knowledge
Differentiation
Big Data
Inga Ulnicane
De Montfort University
Inga Ulnicane
De Montfort University

Abstract

This paper aims to study scientific, technological and political changes that currently affect organization of Big Science and Research Infrastructures (RIs) in Europe. Its focus is on scientific and technological developments such as shifts towards Big Data and digital platforms as well as on political move towards differentiated integration for establishing and maintaining RIs. While analysing these new developments, the chapter also seeks to investigate how they fit with insights and findings of existing scientific literature on Big Science and RI. If ‘traditional’ Big Science and RI are exemplified by large-scale research facilities, instruments and laboratories, then today a novel type of RI is emerging based on Big Data and digital platforms providing tools and services for data analysis, modelling and simulation. This is happening in new hybrid research fields that combine traditional ‘small science’ fields such as humanities and health sciences with information and communication technologies (ICTs). These digital platforms function as interacting networks bringing together diverse user communities, data and tools. Politically, during the past 20 years establishment and maintenance of RIs in Europe has gradually shifted from intergovernmental ad hoc cooperation enabling launch of major large-scale facilities such as CERN, European Molecular Biology Laboratory and European Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory to increasingly becoming a topic for the EU research policy. Effective investment and use of research infrastructures is part of the European Research Area launched in 2000 and has been implemented via European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) framework for joint establishment and operation of research infrastructures. The ERIC framework requesting minimum participation of one member state and two others either member state/s and/or associated country/ies is an example of flexible integration allowing countries with common interests to deepen and strengthen their cooperation. In European studies, it is known as ‘differentiated integration’ and is similar to other concepts such as multi-speed Europe, variable geometry and Europe à la carte. Differentiated integration characterizes ‘all those policies, in which the territorial extension of European Union (EU) membership and EU rule validity are incongruent’ (Holzinger & Schimmelfennig 2012: 292). In the case of ERICs we can see both types of differentiated integration: internal where some member states do not participate as well as external where non-members participate. Important question for understanding differentiated integration in RIs is why some countries choose to participate while others not. To provide empirical insights into the development of this new type of RI, the paper will use recent and ongoing cases of developing digital RI in Europe.