The Last Word
Europlanet: Moving Forward Together
The Europlanet Society’s President and Europlanet 2024 RI Coordinator, Nigel Mason, reflects on a milestone for the European planetary community.
Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.
This year Europlanet celebrates its 16th birthday. The ‘child’ born in 2005 (see Memories of Europlanet’s Birth) is now entering a new adolescent age where it is reaching out and exploring new boundaries. In growing up, Europlanet has developed facets and skills to address responsibilities on a personal and professional front. The Europlanet Society has been established to support the Europlanet family within the planetary community, aiming to provide a friendly, inclusive environment for networking, and sharing science and experiences. The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) is now an international platform for scientists and engineers to perform pioneering research across Europe and around the world, with many hundreds of organisations and thousands of researchers using its services.
Planetary science and the community working in it are also growing and evolving over time. Going forward, Europlanet will need to adapt to changing circumstances and priorities, especially in the wake of the pandemic. The Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) network provides an active programme for those entering our field (EPEC Corner) and the Europlanet Mentoring initiative offers informal and confidential support in career development. The distributed nature of both the Society, which is supported by 10 Regional Hubs, and the 2024 RI project, which has 57 partners around the world, enables Europlanet to listen to local needs and be flexible in the programme that it offers. However, the broad reach and drive to widen participation brings its own challenges in terms of coordination and sustainability.
Europlanet is part of a larger population of nearly 300 research infrastructures funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. In recent months, we have taken active steps to get to know some of our ‘cousins’ through an initial workshop in March 2021 with other distributed research infrastructures. The meeting highlighted that Europlanet is not alone in the challenges it faces and that building a more coordinated network with other distributed research infrastructures offers a lot of potential to learn from some of our older relations and share best practice with organisations that are just starting out.
Although we are not able to meet face-to-face in Helsinki in September, we look forward to seeing everyone at the virtual Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 and participating in an interactive programme of scientific and community events. Europlanet’s activities are only possible through the efforts of many hundreds of individuals, and there are many open opportunities to shape the future by serving on committees and taking leadership roles in upcoming projects. If you are not a member, please join the Society and help us sustain the momentum we have generated, despite the pandemic.
Together we can ensure that the next decade is as exciting as the last and look forward to Europlanet’s 18th and 21st birthdays, when it will not just ‘come of age’ but boldly go on to explore new worlds.