Integration in STAR
Currently leading experts in radioecology are approaching retirement, education related to radioecology has steadily declined and funding for radioecological research is at a minimum in many European countries. With a renewed interest in nuclear energy and the scientific challenges related to the nuclear fuel cycle, the need for radioecological expertise is increasing world-wide. To face this challenge and avoid further fragmentation, nine leading organisations have established the STAR Network of Excellence in radioecology.
Strategic Research Agenda (SRA)
One of our goals is to develop the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA). The SRA will provide a long term vision of radioecological research needed within the European community and guidance on future collaborative research lines. The content of the SRA will be improved and developed through consultation with the wider radioecological community and relevant stakeholders (e.g. industry, national regulators, and international organisations).
Promoting effective collaboration and integration
To promote effective collaboration and integration we will survey data bases, sample banks, analysis methods, models, and facilities available within the different STAR partner organisations. A virtual laboratory will be created on the STAR webportal that contain information about radioecology facilities, procedures, methods, and available expertise. The virtual laboratory will also provide on-line demonstrations of procedures and wiki blogs to enable interactive communication. It will encourage integration through better planning of joint research projects, joint use of infrastructure, and establishing best practices.
Observatories for Radioecological Research
One or more contaminated field sites will be chosen as Observatories for Radioecological Research. Focused research at these common sites will lead to the improvement of methods and models, leading to an enhanced understanding of radionuclide behavior and effects. The observatories will foster innovative co-operation amongst the partners. Over time, they will involve the wider radioecological and stakeholder community in the development of a sustainable European Research Area in radioecology. General requirements for choosing an Observatory include a long-term perspective for shared field work and the attractiveness for scientists in related disciplines, e.g. ecotoxicology. The candidate site will be well characterized and subject of long-term investigations.
Integration on the scale envisioned by STAR requires new ways of thinking by scientists, supported by an effective management and governance structure. It invokes new approaches to radioecology. Research conducted by the STAR Work Packages requires mutual access to laboratories, equipment, material, data and knowledge, as well as exchanges of researchers. Transition to a fully functional, integrated programme will take time. The logistics of integrating have been planned in three additional phases that begin with the establishment of STAR and evolves, 4.5 years later, to the ALLIANCE consortium.
Phase One: Initiation of a Phased Integration. The initial aim will be to establish management structures and procedures for integrating European radioecological research. Phase 1 will establish the Phased Integration Plan of STAR participant organisations by surveying ongoing and planned national and international radioecological projects. The current status of infrastructures, methods used, databases, archived sample banks, and research activities will be identified.
Phase Two: Consolidation of Stepwise Phased Integration. Administrative or procedural problems that might impede integration of the research conducted by STAR recognized during Phase 1 will be analysed. Solutions to the problems will be identified and implemented to the extent possible. Jointly approved procedures and good practices, use and development of infrastructures, as well as enhanced training and mobility among STAR participants will be evaluated. The legal structures for integrating participant organisations within the parent ALLIANCE consortium will be considered. New members to the ALLIANCE from the international scientific community will be encouraged.
Phase Three: Transition to a Permanent Entity. During this phase we will gradually merge the functions of STAR with that of the ALLIANCE consortium by providing a clear trans-national structure with accountabilities. A transition plan will be developed that maps the road to sustainability of radioecology research in Europe. The ALLIANCE will provide a permanent management structure and implementation for long term international radioecological research that goes beyond the short term funding period of STAR. The step-wise phased integration programme will permit the ALLIANCE consortium to maximize integration of its radioecological infrastructures, research, training and education programmes. A dissemination plan will be developed which will ensure the sustainable application of network outputs within the radioecology alliance.
By the time the STAR contract comes to an end, the management of the SRA and related integrated R&D programmes will be managed through the ALLIANCE’s integrated governance system.