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Towards Greener Future Digital Research Infrastructures.​

The contribution of SLICES to the GreenDIGIT project.

Lowering the environmental impact of digital infrastructures should be a priority notably as they today contribute 3 to 4% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world and are expected to triple from 2020 to 2050.
The GreenDIGIT project brings together 4 major distributed Digital Research Infrastructures at different lifecycle stages, EBRAINS, EGI, SLICES, and SoBigData, to tackle the challenge of environmental impact reduction with the ambition to provide solutions that are reusable across the whole spectrum of digital services on the ESFRI landscape and play a role model.

Lowering the environmental impact of digital services and technologies should become a priority for both the operation of existing digital services and the design of future digital infrastructures. Energy consumption and carbon footprint are the two major issues regarding environmental impact, and indeed, digital infrastructures today contribute 3 to 4% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world, with a growth of 8% per year. In particular, the part of the networking infrastructure alone is responsible for 2 to 14% of digital impacts, according to various sources, mainly due to their electricity consumption.

As discussed during the 2nd Open Session organised by ESFRI about “RIs and the European Green Deal”, which took place on 22 September 2021, RIs can, and must, contribute to the European Green Deal targeting to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent. Moreover, the contribution to the Green Deal is also directly linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because, as stated in the ESFRI Roadmap 2021, “To reach the SDGs, the EU introduced the Green Deal as a new European growth strategy towards a prosperous society with a resource-efficient economy and no net emissions of greenhouse gases”. Furthermore, the digital domain has a specific role to play because, as claimed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference in 2018, “ICT can help accelerate progress towards every single one of the 17 SDGs”.
The overall objective of GreenDIGIT is to develop and validate a consistent framework, including a package of innovative technical solutions, models, and tools to increase the sustainability of digital RIs by lowering their environmental and climate impact throughout their whole lifecycle.

In order to reach this overall objective, GreenDIGIT has the following objectives:

O1: Assess status and trends of low impact computing within 4 DIGIT RIs (EGI, SLICES, SoBigData, EBRAINS) and in the broader digital service provider community of ESFRIs, to produce recommendations and roadmaps for providers for during and beyond the project.

O2: Provide reference architecture and design principles, as well as an actionable model for RIs about environmental impact assessment and monitoring, reflecting on the whole RI lifecycle and including the digital infrastructure components and their interaction with the broader environment.

O3: Develop and validate new and innovative technologies, methods, and tools for digital service providers within European Research Infrastructures through which they can reduce their energy consumptions and overall environmental impact.

O4: Develop and provide technical tools for researchers that assist them in the design, execution and sharing of environmental impact aware digital applications with reproducibility, Open Science and FAIR data management considerations.

O5: Educate and support digital service providers in the RI communities about good practices on environmental impact conscious lifecycle management and operation of infrastructures and services.

In order to reach its objectives, GreenDIGIT has the following activities:

• Survey of ESFRI Research Infrastructures energy efficiency and ecological impact, collect existing practices to reduce long term environmental impact
• Consolidating efforts in developing tools for energy efficiency and consumption management of datacenters and the whole digital infrastructure
• Developing Roadmap and Policy to transform European Research Infrastructures to become greener and sustainable in long perspective
• Develop and disseminate best practices in energy efficiency management among ESFRI RIs
• Provide training for researchers and RI operators on reducing energy consumption and climate impact of datacenters and infrastructure, support academic curricula development
GreenDIGIT targets to contribute to the following outcomes:
• Optimisation of resource and energy consumption integrated through the full life cycle of research infrastructures
• Increased long-term sustainability of European research infrastructures
• Reduction of environmental (including climate-related) impacts

For more information please see the video “Greening Digital Infrastructures: Current Solutions and Future Research Challenges” from The Networking Channel

GreenDIGIT is an initiative by 4 Digital Infrastructures for all ESFRIs and other digital service providers for science:

• SLICES: A distributed Research Infrastructure to support large-scale experimental research on Digital Technologies
• EGI: Open Ecosystem for Research and Innovation and: Advanced Computing Services for Research)
• EBRAINS: A digital research infrastructure for brain science and brain-inspired technology.
• SoBigData: distributed, Pan-European, multi-disciplinary research infrastructure aimed at social mining and Big Data to understand the complexity of our interconnected society.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under the Grant Agreement GreenDIGIT – GA-101131207