LONDON While until recently some 250 Siberian research institutes were out of bounds to foreigners, a project is enabling scientists from the EU and Russia to collaborate freely in information and communications Technology (ICT) research.
“The federal district of Sibirsky – part of Siberia – is home to some 66,400 researchers. Yet when our project began in July 2004, there was little contact between them and the EU,” says Petra Reiter of the European Commission's Information Society Technologies (IST) SITE research project.
The Russian partner, the Association for Engineering Education of Russia (AEER), set up an online database of Siberian IT research teams with potential in IST. European users of the database can look up researchers in categories from embedded systems to e-health.
In the Sibirsky region, the SITE project developed a multilevel support network of 64 local and regional contact points for IST. Top of the pyramid is the Tomsk Polytechnic University, representing the AEER. Then come the eight Sibirsky regional contact points for IST, where the staff received training on the EU’s Framework research and IST programs from lead project partner Singleimage. They also learned where and how to find research partners in Europe, and how to write a European project proposal.
Lastly, so-called European offices were set up in 56 different research organizations in Siberia. Selection criteria for these offices included English-language skills and the quality of internet connections. Personnel in these offices were trained on IST by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency using eTraining methods. Guided by the regional centers, these offices now collect research papers and maintain IST-related websites and newsletters.
Recent contacts have resulted in the setting up of eleven research teams, and the submission of proposals for IST research under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for European research. Although none passed the European Commission’s review stage, Reiter notes that the work of the project has generated a level of scientific collaboration that no one imagined possible a few years ago. She believes that this collaboration is sustainable (certain regional contact points will continue after the project ends in December 2006), and that some of the latest proposals for IST research under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will be accepted.
The project team are hosting a workshop on Nov 23 at IST 2006 in Helsinki, Finland to enable European researchers to discover the innovative research potential of their Russian colleagues, including those from the Sibirsky region.