Italian National Research Portal sets out plan for European expansion

A European network of national research portals, sharing information and working together to generate an interest in science among the public and businesses alike – this was the vision set out
during a presentation of the Italian National Research Portal at the European Parliament on 15 October.

Set up in 2005, the Italian National Research Portal is the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Research, research agencies and universities. It is hosted by the interuniversity
consortium CINECA.

In particular, the portal focuses on three key audiences: young people, the general public, and businesses. With young people, the goal is to arouse their interest in science and help those
interested in following a scientific career. Regarding the general public, the objective is to explain, in simple language, why research and innovation are important to their lives and also to
explain how and why their taxes are spent. For businesses, the portal offers the chance to highlight achievements and form networks.

Information on the site includes results from Italian research projects; researcher biographies; a calendar of events; policy information and news articles. Simple and direct language is used
throughout, to make the portal accessible to as many people as possible.

Since its launch, the portal has grown in size and attracted increasing numbers of visitors from all walks of life, ranging from students seeking to get in touch with researchers, to patients
interested in research into their condition. Feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and in 2006 the portal was singled out by Gartner, an international market research company,
as one of the best services in the eGovernment sector.

CINECA has plans to increase the size and scope of the portal further, and work is already well underway to translate key parts of the site into English.

The Italians are justifiably proud of their work. ‘It spreads scientific knowledge and so adds value to research activities,’ said Professor Mario Rinaldi, President of CINECA. ‘This portal,
through communication, represents one of ERA’s [the European Research Area’s] objectives.’

Now the Italians are keen to share their experience and encourage other countries to set up similar portals. Ultimately, they hope that these national research portals will form a tightly
interlinked network, both with each other and with European portals such as CORDIS.

‘We hope our experience will be viewed positively by other countries and lead to a network of centres disseminating research results,’ explained Professor Rinaldi.

CINECA’s Antonio Storino underlined that portal’s European plans were still very much in the exploratory phase. The first step was to share the idea and create a group of people to brainstorm
and, over time, define and share an action plan.

The group would also need to lay down some ground rules to ensure interoperability and agree on what information should be shared between the portals.

However, while the details of this pan-European portal are yet to be decided, Professor Storino is clear about his plans for it. ‘We want it to be a one-stop-shop communicating the value of the
European Research Area,’ he said.

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