EIROforum welcomes the European XFEL as a new member

The European research facility XFEL has become the eighth member of EIROforum. Just as political and economic interests have become unified within Europe, scientific research is benefiting from a similar alliance.


Massimo Altarelli, Chairman of the XFEL Management Board (left) and Francesco Romanelli, Chairman of the EIROforum (right). In the back (left to right): Francesco Sette (ESRF), Felicitas Pauss (CERN), Iain Mattaj (EMBL), Richard Wagner (ILL), Rowena Sirey (ESO) and David Southwood (ESA).

In this day and age, scientific research is oriented towards large-scale projects, which require the involvement of a large number of partners – meaning funding institutes or national governments – and, obviously, the cooperation of the leading experts in a variety of related fields. For these reasons, it is essential to encourage synergies on an international level, combining resources, facilities and expertise. This is the quest of EIROforum, which brings together research organizations from many different fields (see box).

The role of EIROforum is to facilitate interactions with the European Commission, other bodies of the European Union and national governments. It is active in the field of science policy, supporting the construction of the European Research Area; it also works closely with industry to drive innovation and to stimulate the transfer of technology. “Since its beginning almost 10 years ago, the members have developed a wide range of joint activities including training, scientific instrumentation, outreach and education,” said Francesco Romanelli, Director-General of EFDA-JET and current Chairman of EIROforum.

EIROforum plays a key role in communicating science to the general public, promoting and organizing science education activities and initiatives. One of these is Science on Stage, an event that brought together hundreds of European science teachers to swap ideas and experiences through workshops and an interactive arena. This led to the creation of a strong network of science teachers across Europe, supported by the Science in School journal. The publication is one of EIROforum’s main educational initiatives and is freely available in over 25 European languages to inform science teachers and students.

“The European research organisations that are presently in EIROforum are bright success stories of European collaboration in science. The European XFEL has the ambition to become a further success story and looks forward to joining other organisations to draw upon their experience and, together with them, to strengthen the science basis for a stronger and more globally competitive Europe,” concluded Massimo Altarelli, Chairman of the XFEL Management Board.

This article is based on the EIROforum press release.


The European XFEL (X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility), based in Hamburg (Germany), is currently under construction, with commissioning planned for 2014. It is supported by several countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Spain and China have also expressed an interest in joining. The facility will produce ultra-short X-ray flashes which will enable scientists to map the atomic details of viruses, decipher the molecular composition of cells, take three-dimensional images of the nano-world, film chemical reactions, and study processes such as those occurring deep inside planets.


EIROforum is a collaboration of eight European intergovernmental scientific research organizations. The EIROforum charter was formally signed in 2002, followed by a Statement of Intent between the EIROforum and the European Commission in 2003. The seven founding members of EIROforum are CERN, EFDA-JET, EMBL, ESA, ESO, ESRF and ILL. They cover the scientific disciplines of particle physics, fusion, molecular biology, space research, astronomy and astrophysics, materials science, and neutron research. EIROforum operates through “Thematic Working Groups”. These are: Grid, International Affairs, Human Resources, Instrumentation, and Outreach and Education.

by Francesco Poppi