Europlanet - Bringing the community together to conduct pioneering research
Europlanet emerged from the collaboration between scientists involved in the Cassini-Huygens mission. Its primary aim is to overcome fragmentation and to share resources in Europe’s planetary science community.
Europe boasts one of the largest international communities of planetary scientists, with over 800 tenured academics and around 3000-4000 young researchers in more than 200 research groups/institutions, spread across nearly all Europe’s national states. Unlike other space agencies, which have responsibility for both space missions and the supporting the scientific communities, the European Space Agency is only responsible for building and operating the missions. Europe’s scientific community is supported by the national states and individual institutions, each with their own funding regimes and requirements. Fragmentation is, thus, a particular challenged in Europe. Since its foundation, Europlanet has forged a considerable degree of cohesion and unity of purpose amongst Europe’s planetary scientists.
2008-2012 - Europlanet Research Infrastructure
Europlanet received €6 million under Framework 7’s Integrated Infrastructure Initiative programme to develop a distributed Research Infrastructure (RI). Europlanet RI (http://www.europlanet-ri.eu) enabled European researchers to access state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, planetary analogue field sites and virtual access facilities. It developed new tools and infrastructure, and consolidated the community through meetings, workshops and the sharing of resources, ideas, data and personnel.
2005-2009 – European Planetology Network (EuroPlaNet) Coordination Action
EuroPlaNet received €2 million under Framework 6 for networking activities to build a strong community for European planetary science through meetings and workshops, identify science goals, develop synergies between space missions and ground-based observations and lay the foundations for a Virtual Planetary Observatory.
- The European Planetary Science Congress, established under EuroPlaNet in 2006, has become the largest annual meeting on planetary science in Europe and is now self-sustaining.
- Under its FP7 transnational access provision, Europlanet RI enabled European researchers to make 17 visits to planetary analogue field sites (55% more than anticipated), 246 visits to planetary simulators (facilities to explore physical and chemical processes of planetary atmospheres and surfaces) and 160 visits to distributed sample analysis facilities (68% more than anticipated).
- Under FP6 and FP7, Europlanet has organised major workshops at the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern. Books resulting from the workshops summarise the state-of-play knowledge and provide a basis for future research, development and innovation (e.g. The plasma environment of Venus, Mars and Titan has resulted in over 600 chapter downloads since its online publication on February 09, 2012 on SpringerLink).
- The Interactive Matrix [http://europlanet-na1.oeaw.ac.at/matrix/] established under FP7 enables planetary scientists to link space mission requirements to ground-based facilities that can help them deliver their science goals. The Matrix integrates more than 235 facilities, and is being supported and used well beyond the end of the FP7 RI’s funding.
- Virtual Access services established by Europlanet under FP7 are receiving ~1,600 requests per month for the planetary datasets which is in excess of the typical numbers for scientific databases.
- Europlanet has organised three dinner debates and more than 25 individual briefings with members of the European Parliament.
- Europlanet activities and meetings generated more than 1500 online news articles during 2009-2012, as well as news items in radio and TV broadcasts, newspapers, magazines and journals.
Europlanet’s activities have a direct relevance to our understanding of our own planet, its origins, its past and future evolution, the conditions needed for life, and threats from our space environment, such as solar storms, climatic effects or Near-Earth Asteroids. The exploration of our Solar System has long been recognised as a potential ‘hook’ for attracting people with many diverse backgrounds and interests into science. Since its inception, Europlanet has included outreach and engagement as a core activity, creating new resources, organising public events and competitions, providing outreach funding schemes and an annual award to support the outreach community. The Europlanet Media Centre has brought the results and activities of European planetary researchers to the attention of the mass media.
Europlanet also seeks to engage key stakeholder groups, including policy makers and industry to discuss the future goals, technical requirements and policy implications for planetary science.