More than 200 scientists, policy makers, research managers and computing and network experts met in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the 5th Eastern Partnership E‑infrastructures Conference, EaPEC 2022. Organised by the EU4Digital: Connecting Research and Education Communities (EaPConnect) project, the conference drew participants from 15 countries across the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region and beyond to showcase innovative projects that rely on digital technologies.
Representatives of the Azerbaijani government, the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), the EC Delegation and the EC’s DG NEAR gave welcome addresses.
“EaPEC 2022 will accelerate the integration of the scientific community of Azerbaijan into the European environment,” Arif Hashimov, Acting President of ANAS began, as well as “allowing Azerbaijani scientists to conduct joint research with foreign colleagues and universities and strengthen international scientific cooperation.”
“Building a brighter future together, a resilient economy and the digital transformation are the objectives of the renewed agenda for the EaP region,” said Thibault Charlet, Programme Manager, Digital and Economic Cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries, DG NEAR. “Our focus is on infrastructure and people: providing affordable and secure high-speed connectivity and connecting people. In order to achieve digital transformation, we need to build on a unified ecosystem to ensure that innovation flows across all sectors of the economy.”
The EaPConnect project delivers resources for important outcomes focused on the expansion of infrastructure, explained Irina Matthews, EaPConnect Project Manager, GÉANT. “This ensures that scientific exchange and knowledge can be scaled up, to make research and education communities stronger and to communicate at national and international level.” And she highlighted how Azerbaijan has already benefited from EaPConnect activities: “In Azerbaijan data traffic increased 6-fold since the start of the project and doubled in the past two years, as more people and institutions use the network in the country.”
The conference sessions covered e-learning, open science, cybersecurity and big data, ICT innovation, Earth observation, e-health and digital humanities, among other topics.
In the final keynote talk, ‘A prelude to a long journey: from Big data to scientific wisdom’, Professor Bilge Demirkoz of Middle East Technical University of Ankara, talked with passion about her work at CERN on the Large Hadron Collider, and about her involvement in space research and science diplomacy activities. She explored the concept of scientific wisdom, whereby science touches the mind, the heart and the soul, and delivered a moving and motivational finale to the event.
In her closing remarks, EaPConnect Project Manager Irina Matthews observed that the end of the conference is a beginning, for the human connections made there to continue growing. “None of the projects or research initiatives presented here is possible without technology and technology-based tools. And all of them are enabled by the collaboration between people and organisations,” she said. “Our strength is in harnessing the power of technology through building human networks and this is what EaPEC 2022 aimed to highlight and enable. When the power of technology is multiplied by the size of the human network – only then technology delivers impact on human lives.”
EaPEC 2022 was held at the Marriott Absheron Hotel in Baku on 28-29 September.