The European Commission has its critics, but no one can doubt it has ambitious plans. For example, by the year 2020, the commission says, all European researchers will be able to log in to an enormous virtual repository that will eventually provide access to the collective data from all publicly funded research. This European Open Science Cloud would be a safe, cheap and reliable way to store and access data, and getting to it would be as easy as signing into a Netflix account. It would also be a massive boon — encouraging interdisciplinary research and data reuse, reducing duplication and promoting reproducibility. Sounds more like a dream than a plan? Some scientists think so. Few even know the project exists.
Given the enormous value of such a system to researchers, their obliviousness is a sign that some of the people tasked with bringing the vision to life do not yet believe it will happen. And even those with faith don’t know exactly what it would look like or how it would come about.
The vagueness is no great surprise. Rather than construct a single physical data repository, the commission wants to bring together and build on existing research data centres, both public and private. It would connect these using a single interface with common software and protocols. This is an efficient use of resources, but also a logistical and coordination nightmare