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GENIUS – Gaia European Network for Improved data User Services

X. Luri – Universitat de Barcelona ICCUB/IEEC – coordinator

F. Arenou – GEPI Observatoire de Paris-Meudon
A. Brown – Leiden University
N. Hambly – University of Edinburgh

The FP7 call

Target: collaborative project

Activity: 9.2. Strengthening the foundations of Space science and technology Area 9.2.1: Research to support space science and exploration
SPA.2012.2.1-01 Exploitation of space science and exploration data

Key points from call:

  • A focus is to be given in 2012 to research and analysis of astronomical and astrophysical data obtained from space missions, including exploitation of space mission data in combination with data collected from ground based observations. The use of scientific space data available at the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC)26 is of particular significance, as is the data collected from collaborative efforts of NASA and European space actors. Research and analysis projects are intended to strengthen cooperation on scientific problems, which are for instance relevant to our solar system, internal constitution of stars and and stellar evolution, exoplanets, galaxies and interstellar media

  • Projects should enhance the effectiveness and productivity of the European scientific community, and promote the contribution of space assets to scientific and technological knowledge, through:
    • mobilising the best expertise, in particular academic researchers and scientists, in various fields of science for the analysis and interpretation and presentation of space data, selecting the most innovative and challenging objectives in emerging scientific fields;
    • extending the usage of available space data (including archived data);
    • developing better tools to process, access, archive and distribute and present data obtained from different sources such as space observatories and planetary missions.

  • This topic is open to international cooperation and should focus on downstream R&D activities complementing space missions, such as the effective scientific exploitation of existing data.

Expected impact:

Projects are expected to add value to space missions and earth based observations by significantly contributing to the effective scientific exploitation of collected data. They are expected to enable space researchers to take full advantage of the potential value of data sets. Projects are expected to expand the use of data, and/or contribute to dissemination of space mission data on a global scale, and/or enhance the relations with established international space powers.

Projects are expected to contribute to the much needed coordination and exploitation of existing and future data collections from space missions, and thereby enhancing the possibility to base research on datasets providing comprehensive or full coverage, while at the same time addressing the potential need for further analysis of existing datasets. It is also expected that the projects will facilitate access to, and appropriate use of data for those scientists who were/are not part of the team having obtained the space mission data (e.g. principal investigators).

Furthermore, projects are expected to add value to existing activities on European and national levels, and to raise the awareness of coordination and synergy efforts among stakeholders.


  • Gaia is an ESA cornerstone mission scheduled for launch in 2013. Its goal is the study of the galaxy and it will generate a 3D map of its contents in the form of a catalogue of 1,000,000,000 stars (+other types of objects).
  • The raw Gaia data needs processing to convert it in useable scientific data. This task was assigned by ESA (through an announcement of opportunities, AO) to an European consortium named DPAC, based on funding by the ESA member states. The coordinator and several other participants are members of this consortium.
  • The above mentioned AO explicitly excluded the task to create the actual archive of data from the results of DPAC processing. This task will be assigned by ESA during 2012 to a separate consortium, to be also funded by the member states.
  • The final data archive will be hosted at ESAC (the ESA European Space Astronomy Center)
  • The scientific community has started organising to exploit the Gaia data. Among other initiatives a group of institutes has won an FP7 ITN project, forming a collaboration named GREAT. The coordinator is part of this collaboration.


In the above context a key ingredient is missing. The development and implementation of the system that will contain the Gaia data produced by DPAC, to be exploited by the scientific community that has started to organise around GREAT and that will be hosted at ESAC.

This task will be assigned by ESA to a consortium to be funded by the member states, but there is not guarantee that such a critical task can receive funding beyond the level needed to do an acceptable minimum, especially in the present economical context.

The GENIUS proposal aims to ensure that the development of the Gaia archive can be raised above such minimum, based on the best technologies, designed for optimum performance, including advanced tools and, above all, properly covering the needs of the wide community that will use the Gaia data for the best possible scientific exploitation.

Outline of the proposal

Consortium of 4-5 nodes (no more, money for contracts is limited) + affiliates. A WP has to be assigned to a partner, but there can be partners without specific WP.

  • Coordinated by a board formed by node representatives
  • Needs an external advisory board; could be formed e.g. by DPACE members, GREAT members and some national Gaia PIs.
  • Focus on technology development to support the implementation of the Gaia archive. Mainly IT activity but with strong an clear scientific drivers. Tailored system.
  • Innovative, ambitious, not a development of a standard archive. Advanced tools, prototypes, testing of new technologies.
  • Working hand-to-hand with the end-users (the scientific community) and focused on their needs. Goal is not fancy technology per se, but allowing the best, easiest and more thorough exploitation of the data.
  • GENIUS will provide technologies and tools to CU9 and collaborate with it, but is not CU9. CU9 is focused in the archive operations and covers more ground. Nevertheless, when the AO is issued GENIUS can likely be part of the CU9 consortium.
  • Stress the complementarity and synergies of GENIUS with DPAC and GREAT. GENIUS fills the gap to ensure the full exploitation of Gaia data: DPAC (data reduction & archive) + GENIUS (advanced tools & new technologies) Ț GREAT and the wide scientific community (scientific exploitation)
  • WP structure reflecting the architecture:

Archive system


Access tools




Query tools


Query engine

Analysis tools

Science drivers


Visualization tools

Grand challenges

  • Final goal: deliver a working system for the Gaia archive for use at ESAC
  • Management of intellectual property: a policy should be agreed, contemplating the possibility of technology transfer (licensing and patents).
  • Participation of ESA is strictly forbidden. Quote:
    "ESA is strictly forbidden to participate under any form in proposals under both the "Strengthening Space Foundations" and "GMES" parts of the fifth call for the FP7 Space theme. This extends to the participation of ESA personnel as part of a project advisory or
    steering board, to the official endorsement of proposals by ESA staff, and even to references to an ESA staff member as having
    been consulted."

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Topic revision: r7 - 2011-10-10 - XaviLuri
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