Interviews Magazine

CONNECT Interview: Andreas Dudler

Andreas Dudler was elected Chair of the GÉANT Board in November 2020, after joining the Board for the first time in 2017. As he is welcoming the community to TNC21, CONNECT took the opportunity to get his views on the past four years, as well as what is next for our community.

Why was the time right for you and for SWITCH in 2017 and 2020 for you to take on roles in the GÉANT Board?

GÉANT is important for higher education and research in Europe, and therefore for Switzerland too. In 2017, GÉANT was recently formed from the merger of DANTE and TERENA; there were important challenges for the future. That motivated me. By 2020, as a community, we already achieved a lot. We are now preparing a new EU framework agreement, which will integrate the strategic goals of GÉANT – an important foundation for our future work. And last, but not least: working in the GÉANT Board is an honour!

In 2017 you said our community should “be unafraid to change”. Have we been unafraid enough?

The formation of GÉANT pursued the important goal of being stronger together. It was foreseeable that digitalisation of teaching and research would bring great challenges; the idea of approaching new things with courage but without fear referred to this. I think we have done this. For example, the brand new GN4-3N project is building a new research network for Europe. We are tackling this with courage, and 100% EU funding shows that our community has built up a lot of trust there.

You said our community should become less dependent on EC funding and emphasised that Trust and Identity, Security and seamless access are key to providing true value to users, meaning that GÉANT and NRENs need integrated support with each other and other e-infrastructure projects. How has this been going?

Financial dependence on the EU is still there. But GÉANT has achieved a strong trust by the EU in our work and our importance for teaching and research. I experience this in every conversation with EU officials.

Trust and Identity, Security, seamless access for users, and collaboration with other European e-Infrastructures are increasingly important. These elements are well positioned in the new GÉANT Association strategy. And strong support for the EOSC executive committee plus the ongoing EOSC association board contribution is a concrete success in e-infrastructure collaboration.

The 2021-2026 GÉANT Association strategy included input from NRENs and other stakeholders. What do you see as its most important elements and impacts?

We have succeeded in developing a common vision for the future of the GÉANT community. I am very pleased that we adopted the strategy unanimously, despite very different starting points of the various members. This consensus is, for me, of particular importance, as is the clear commitment “to collaborate and share knowledge to enable NRENs to improve their performance, both individually and collectively.” This collaboration will impact every member and the GÉANT Association.

How do you see the community and GÉANT tackling challenges related to an ever-increasing demand for involvement in relatively new or expanding areas – for example with EuroHPC, Quantum, and international initiatives? How can NRENs balance being part of a strong and unified NREN community that meets these international challenges together and ensuring that they meet their local and cultural needs?

More requests are being made and this relates to the trust already mentioned. That is why it’s important to tackle such challenges together and make the results available to all NRENs. Not that all NRENs have to be involved in all activities. We must not overestimate the possibilities of GÉANT. Concrete national implementation will generally remain the task of NRENs; GÉANT is committed to help NRENs to fulfil this role.

A major challenge facing us all is environmental change. What do you see as our responsibilities and opportunities for ‘greening’ our activities?

Part of GÉANT’s innovation strategy is to “make ecological and climate sustainability a priority for all of its work, striving to be carbon neutral.” This clear statement shows our responsibility in this matter. Operational implementation will have to be defined. Already clear is, the new network will substantially reduce electricity consumption. Our travel footprint will be another part. The past 12 months has shown what is possible in that sense.

If you could complete just one achievement with GÉANT in the rest of this year, what would you prioritise?

Completion of the new framework agreement with the EU. This will set the boundary conditions for the next seven years.

Reflecting on your career and time in our community, what makes you most proud?

My work in the GÉANT community started in 2012, when I took responsibility for SWITCH, the Swiss NREN. I joined the group that prepared the merger to create the GÉANT Association and I am proud that we foresaw upcoming challenges and worked towards new, well-functioning structures.

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