Real added value
By Francesco Pepe
On May 29th and 30th PlanetS will have its 4th Site Visit. This important event is concurrent with the end of the first phase of the NCCR, and may be an occasion to make a step back, breath and … meditate: Where would Planetary Science in Switzerland stand today without PlanetS? What about us?
Everybody will have his/her own answer, especially when it goes into personal or philosophical aspects. In terms of scientific knowledge, this question may end into a Gedankenexperiment that is everything but trivial, since the whole domain is relatively new, benefits from an increasing number of actors worldwide, and evolves very fast. I think however that two simple facts can and must be established: The first is that PlanetS has become a reference for the whole community, is known as an entity and is very frequently involved as such in international collaborations, initiatives, outreach actions and events.
The second is a more quantitative consideration on the number of activities funded or enabled by PlanetS. They range from the many instrumental projects for ground- and space-based characterisation of exoplanets, solar-system missions and laboratory experiments, through always more complex and complete modelling of planetary structures and atmospheres, better theoretical understanding of formation, evolution and present observations, to eventually a series of tools and services provided by the various platforms in data analysis, outreach, knowledge transfer, equal opportunity and academic exchanges.
The achievements of the first years are amazing, and even more impressive is the international presence and the research ‘power’ of PlanetS for the near future thanks to the competence of its collaborators and the developed research tools. Personally, I could have never imagined such a success when we started PlanetS. Today we can say that we have been able to build a research center that is much more than the sum of the individual member institutes. I eventually realise the meaning of the words ‘added value’.