Interview with Maria Moskovko, a pioneer in the research on ERICs as new policy instruments for Research Infrastructures
17 October 2017, Trieste - Italy

Maria Moskovko is a PhD student at Lund University, in Sweden. Her research focuses on the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) as a new science policy instrument for the management and governance of research infrastructures. As case studies, she has chosen the European Spallation Source ERIC (ESS ERIC) and CERIC-ERIC.

In late September, Maria came to CERIC headquarters, to interview the working team and start collecting the first information about the process that brought CERIC to be set-up and formalized. The aim was to see and understand the vision, activities and projects of an ERIC, as well as to start documenting on how an ERIC comes to life and grows with the mission of making an impact on European science and innovation.
We decided to take this chance to interview Maria back, to tell us about her research background and goal, with the aim of keeping contact with her and receiving updates in the run and progress of her study.

Maria, would you like to introduce yourself and your research project?
Iím enrolled as PhD student in the Research Policy group at the Department of Business Administration at the School of Economics and Management of Lund University, whereas the research project I am employed for is funded by Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation. The focus of my study is the ERICsí structure and governance model, which can be considered as a new policy instrument enabling science.

For which reasons have you chosen to focus on ERICs?
As you know, both MAX IV Laboratory and the European Spallation Source (ESS) ERIC are located in Lund, and they stimulate a lot of interest among both the academics and the locals. I also got curious myself about these new creations in the research realm, especially following the development of ESS becoming an ERIC. However, by now there has not been so much of an academic interest on this topic. There are only few studies on very specific aspects of the ERIC framework. Moreover, my background is in EU affairs, and my Master studies focused on European policies and integration processes in particular. When a PhD position was opened, for implementing a project on ďNew Big ScienceĒ, since I was curious to explore ERICs as a new phenomenon, I decided to propose it as the main topic for my research, and in February 2016 my PhD started. My research investigates how research facilities are governed, and how they are operated and funded. I would like to analyse this novel structure that enables science. This is the reason why I chose ERICs and their structure. Science is usually managed at the national level, and the pan-European or, letís say, supranational approach of the ERIC framework makes the topic particularly interesting.

Öand why CERIC, in particular, as one of your case studies?
When I wrote my application proposal in 2015, CERIC had just set up. I got curious about the top-down type of initiative. In the same time, I started to question myself about what could be the motivations driving research institutions to join this and other Consortia. Another reason why I chose CERIC is its research focus Ė materials science Ė which is in line with that of the European Spallation Source. This allows me to make a comparability study between the two. Moreover, CERIC was the only ERIC addressing a completely different regional area than the ones of ESS ERIC and of other ERICs existing at that time. So, in my first explorations, CERIC was standing out, both for its regional/geographical location, and for it being a distributed top-down initiative, promoted by partner countries integrating their facilities located in different regions in Central and Eastern Europe.

At this point of your research, what do you think are the innovative elements of ERICs?
First of all, their structure. This is a new form of organizing science, going beyond national borders, and implemented at the supranational, EU level. Itís new and innovative itself, for the fact that ERICs are EU-wide entities that differ from other types of legal-administrative forms under which research infrastructures usually function. There has been nothing like this before. Of course, being so new, their structure is not fixed. Thatís why Iím curious about its development, and I think this is a very interesting time to observe it. The visit here at CERICís headquarters already allowed me seeing that, despite being distributed, CERIC has a central seat, with a team with physical proximity and with defined roles. Iíve also had a direct look on the branding process, how the visual identity changed and developed.

After having had a first idea of ERICs, and of CERIC structure and operation, what do you think are your main challenges now?
The main challenge is that it is still an ongoing process. Starting now and looking in retrospective, I can observe the process of how facilities have become ERICs, why and with which motivations they chose this form. In order to understand such motivations, Iím planning to distribute questionnaires to ERICs and to even observe if these same motivations have changed in the time (e.g. before and during the application process, and after the set-up). It is also interesting to see what was happening before the set-up, for instance what funding instruments where used. Probably the most appealing aspect was that ERICs came up as an opportunity to support and sustain already existing or forming collaborations. I am very glad that in these upcoming years I will have the chance to further observe these processes and how structures and collaborations evolve, in this new and innovative science policy framework.