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ACTRIS ERIC – a European Research Infrastructure Consortium for atmospheric research data and services

The European Commission has taken a final decision to establish the Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure (ACTRIS) as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or ERIC. 17 countries are pooling resources to produce data and offer open access to a broad range of technologies, services, and resources in the field of atmospheric science.

ACTRIS ERIC concretizes a long-term effort by several European countries to create a sustainable infrastructure supporting atmospheric and climate research, and NILU and Norway have been active since the beginning. The decision and the ERIC statutes is available in the EU Official Journal.

ERIC status at important time

The European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) is a specific legal form that facilitates the establishment and operation of research infrastructures with European interest. The ERIC status endows research infrastructures with a legal capacity recognized in all EU Member States.

With its ERIC status, ACTRIS is now legally recognized as a European Research Infrastructure.

“ACTRIS facilities can now operate legally together, as one organisation,” says Eija Juurola, Interim ACTRIS Leader. “The decision comes at an important time since the transition to operations is already happening, and the synergies with scientists and industry are continuously developing.”

ACTRIS is the world’s largest multi-site research infrastructure

ACTRIS core components are the National facilities, constituting in observatory and exploratory platforms (e.g. observation stations and atmospheric simulation chambers, respectively), and the Central Facilities (such as the data centre and calibrating laboratories). Photo montage: ACTRIS

ACTRIS facilities make up the largest multi-site atmospheric research infrastructure in the world. It offers access to key information on the composition and state of the atmosphere to researchers, industry, and environmental authorities. The research infrastructure has open access to data products, instruments, expertise, training opportunities, and FAIR data management services.

All users, regardless of their affiliation, area of expertise, or field of activity, can benefit from ACTRIS’ pan-European open access services. ACTRIS aims at increasing the excellence in Earth system observation and research by providing information and knowledge for developing sustainable solutions to societal needs. All ACTRIS services are accessible via http://www.actris.eu.

The scientists taking part in ACTRIS will be able to do multidisciplinary studies relevant for both fundamental and applied research. This will lead to broad benefits to society ranging from building effective environmental policies and strategies to reduce emission of pollutants, which mitigate climate change and improve air quality helping to reach EU Green Deal’s objectives.

The establishment of ACTRIS ERIC manifests the fast progress of ACTRIS from a project-based network to a mature and sustainable research infrastructure. Finland will host the Statutory Seat and manage the overall coordination of ACTRIS. Norway hosts the ACTRIS Data Centre, which offers access to all ACTRIS data, and Italy will manage the access to other ACTRIS services.

Atmospheric science a priority for 5 years

ACTRIS National Facilities are distributed across ACTRIS ERIC’s 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Greece and UK have expressed interest in joining at later stages.

By committing to ACTRIS, the members show that atmospheric and air quality research is a national priority for at least the next five years. They also take part in supporting scientific excellence across Europe. Being a member country of ACTRIS ERIC means that a country’s representative can help shape the strategy and development, and participate in mission-based research. The Norwegian Research Council is the Norwegian delegate in the ACTRIS General Assembly.

ACTRIS core components are the National facilities, constituting in observatory and exploratory platforms (e.g. observation stations and atmospheric simulation chambers, respectively), and the Central Facilities (such as the data centre and calibrating laboratories). They are fundamental for the provision of harmonized high-quality data, both within Europe and at selected global sites, providing users with access to state-of-the-art, well-characterized and versatile facilities.

The Norwegian observatories Zeppelin, Birkenes and Trollhaugen are in the process of qualifying as ACTRIS National Facilities.

ACTRIS activities in Norway

NILU is the Norwegian partner in the ERIC and hosts the ACTRIS Data Centre.

Since August 2022, NILU has a large ongoing project, ACTRIS-Norway, funded under the infrastructure program of the Norwegian Research Council on implementation and development of the ACTRIS Data Centre. Through this, the institute is coordinating the ACTRIS-Norway consortium consisting of NILU, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute and CICERO.

“We are both happy and proud of being a part of ACTRIS ERIC,” says senior scientist and leader of the ACTRIS Data Centre, Cathrine Lund Myhre at NILU. She has been involved since the start of the process in 2011, and in pre-projects even earlier.

Every year, over 5000 users from around 50 countries in the world use ACTRIS data for their research. ACTRIS enables reliable atmospheric predictions, including short-term hazardous weather and health warnings as well as long-term evaluation of climate change.

About 25 persons are contributing to the ACTRIS Data Centre, 15 of them at NILU in Norway. Among them are senior scientist Tove Svendby . She coordinates the national activity of ACTRIS and, now that the ERIC is operational, the labelling of the Norwegian national facilities. Senior scientist Markus Fiebig leads all work with in situ data curation and management in ACTRIS, and system developer Richard O. Rud is head of the technical development of the new ACTRIS data portal. The goal is to replace the existing portal (https://actris.nilu.no/) by the end of the year.

Besides the around 15 persons at NILU, the rest of the data center team is located in France, Italy and Finland.

“Leading the data centre is a core activity in ACTRIS. It puts NILU and Norway in a central and important position, as the data we govern are of inestimable importance for monitoring the ongoing atmospheric changes” Lund Myhre concludes.

The ACTRIS-Norway project group consists of scientists from NILU, the Meteorological Institute and CICERO. The picture is from the kickoff for the project, which took place at Grefsenkollen in Oslo on 1 September 2022. Photo: Christine F. Solbakken, NILU