Reunion and solidarity, emotion and hope
735 is the number of participants from 69 countries around the world who gathered at the last TNC conference. 735 is also about the number of days that the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) continued to collaborate and connect with the research and education community online. Online is how our colleagues from URAN, the Ukrainian research network, continue to work. From their refuge they explained how they continue to support Ukrainian researchers and students, whatever the cost, because war must not stop education or science.
The DNA of NRENs
As Erik Huizer, CEO of Géant, pointed out at the plenary session, the role of NRENs is to ensure that researchers, educators and students can do their work.
Our mission is to give researchers the tools to tackle the scientific challenges of the future: climate change, new diseases, but also scepticism about scientific truths.
Filippo Giorgi, physicist and international expert on climate issues, demonstrated this during his presentation. He explained that it was necessary to integrate the human factor into the modelling of climate change studies. This will require even more computing power to collect data from researchers around the world and integrate it into climate data models. The role of research networks is therefore crucial in exchanging, processing and preserving the huge amount of data needed for this modelling. You can watch the video of his presentation here: https://tnc22.geant.org/sessions/#s1
Our mission is also to give those who educate the tools to train the new generations.
The students proved in short presentations that they can rely on NRENs to carry out innovative projects in the fields of data preservation and security. See more at https://tnc22.geant.org/sessions/#s2 & https://tnc22.geant.org/sessions/#s6
João Bacelar from the European University Foundation also spoke about the 35 years of the Erasmus programme, underlining that it could rely on tools created by NRENs such as eduroam, which facilitates student mobility, or tools guaranteeing their identification and authentication. His presentation can be seen here: https://tnc22.geant.org/sessions/#s5
Red thread: data and security
Throughout the conference, research data - its access, exchange, storage and preservation - was a key issue. As a corollary, attention must also be paid to its integrity and the issue of data security in the broadest sense was also at the centre of the discussions.
Davina Luyten from Belnet wanted to highlight the role that research networks can play in the event of a crisis related to a cyber security incident, a topic that was the subject of a session at the TNC.
Crisis and solutions
This parallel session started with an inspiring presentation by the Swiss NREN SWITCH on the security awareness games they have developed for their community. Awareness remains a crucial element of security, as 85% of security incidents are attributable to the "human factor".
The games have the advantage of offering end-users the opportunity to acquire long-term knowledge and to raise their awareness of the importance of information security in their own organisation and in their private lives in an attractive manner. The games developed by SWITCH go beyond mere gamification (adding game elements such as awarding badges).
When developing their "security adventures", a clear distinction was made between the game objectives (e.g. recovering the organisation's data) and the learning objectives (e.g. how to recognise and respond to social engineering attacks).
In the same session, Casper Dreef (GEANT) explained how the whole GEANT organisation participated in a crisis exercise last month, based on the CLAW 2021 (Crisis Management Workshop for the GÉANT Community) scenario but adapted to the specific objectives of the organisation. In small teams, led by a coordinator, employees were confronted with a realistic crisis scenario. The exercise proved to be very useful in raising awareness among employees in different departments of the importance of having an organisation-wide crisis plan that is tested regularly.
This has already given us a lot of inspiration to continue working on cyber security awareness within our own organisation and the wider Belnet community.
See you next year
To meet, to be in solidarity, to support research and education but also to exchange, discuss and create collaboration, to realise that we are one big 'family' with challenges and needs that transcend borders, all in the service of the research and education communities, that was the TNC 2022, that is what being an NREN is all about!
See you in Tirana for the TNC 2023.