CSC joins 13 European research centers to design web-based research infrastructure

August 19, 2022 — For the OpenWebSearch.EU project, CSC – IT Center for Science, Espoo, Finland, has partnered with 13 other renowned European research centers to develop an open European infrastructure for web search. The project will contribute to Europes digital sovereignty as well as the promotion of an open and human-centred search engine market. The European Commission has just approved the financing of the Horizon Europe project of 8.5 million euros.

“Free, open and unbiased access to information – we have lost these fundamental principles of web search and we urgently need to restore them. That is why we will create an open European infrastructure for web search, based on European values ​​and jurisdiction,” says Michael Granitzer from the University of Passau and Open Search Foundation, coordinator of the OpenWebSearch.EU project.

Over the next three years, researchers will develop the core of a European Open Web Index (OWI) as the basis for new Internet research in Europe. In addition, the project will lay the foundations for an Open and Extensible European Web-based Search and Analysis Infrastructure (OWSAI), based on Europes values, principles, legislation and standards.

“Three areas will be targeted for CSC’s contribution to this project; the Open Web Index development and storage infrastructure, natural language models and knowledge graphs, and the open web search ecosystem and sustainability. This will be a long-term commitment from us with great potential to deliver new services, especially based on web indexes built from Finnish and Swedish content,” says the director. Hanna Mari Puuska at CSC.

The project originated in concerns about the imbalance in the search engine market. Despite being the backbone of our digital economy, web search is dominated and limited by a few gatekeepers like Google, Microsoft, Baidu or Yandex. Thus, information as a public good, with free, impartial and transparent access, is no longer under public control. This imbalance endangers democracy and limits the innovation potential of Europe’s research landscape and economy.

“The role of the World Wide Web as an infrastructure for research and society as a whole cannot be underestimated. But huge efforts are needed to harvest and organize data from the web so that it can be used for information retrieval or as a source of data for research,” says the director. By Oster at CSC. “Research itself is dominated by a few companies with primarily commercial interests. So what we are served from them will always be a compromise between maximizing their ad sales and general utility. As users, then, can we trust the research results to be unbiased and comprehensive? With this project, we will demonstrate and pilot the infrastructure and technologies needed to serve society with open web indices on which public and commercial services can be built.

OpenWebSearch.EUThe strong multidisciplinary consortium of 14 European partners is convinced that the Open Web Research Infrastructure will not only contribute to Europes sovereignty for browsing and searching the web. This will benefit us all as citizens. Based on our own preferences, we will finally have a real choice again when choosing search engines.

OpenWebSearch.EU is the first EU-funded project to establish the web search of tomorrow. It will start in September 2022. The 14 partner institutions will initially cooperate over a period of three years. The project has received funding of 8.5 million euros from the European Unions Horizon research and innovation program under grant agreement no. 101070014.

Homepage of the OpenWebSearch.EU project:

Source: CSC – Computing Center for Science

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