RedCLARA uses cookies to deliver the best possible web experience.

By continuing to use this site, you agree that we may store and access cookies on your device. Please ensure you have read the Cookies Policy. Learn more

I understand

Confirming ‘clichés’, LaCoNGA completes its first cycle looking towards the future

"Never despise small beginnings" seems a fitting adage to describe the inception and impact of the Latin American Alliance for Capacity Building in Advanced Physics, or simply LA-CoNGA Physics, a project that has been working since 2020 to build capacity for the use of supercomputing in the study of astroparticles in the region. 

Started as an initiative of Colombian and Venezuelan students pursuing a doctorate at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and other institutes in Europe, who wanted to "give back" to their colleagues in Latin America the opportunity to access the modern resources they had at their disposal, with the support of the European Union's Erasmus Programme, LA-CoNGA was transformed into a grand project.  

LA-CoNGA involves nine universities in Latin America and Europe, with scientific and academic partners such as CERN itself, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy, the Institute for Research on the Fundamental Laws of the Universe (IRFU), and RedCLARA, as well as industrial partners like the Italian instrumentation company CAEN and data science startups, to contribute to the modernization, accessibility, and internationalization of higher education in countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. 

"What these doctoral students did was to seek to contribute to the development of our students, in a programme that was initially named the Virtual Center for Advanced Studies in High Energy Physics (CEVALE2). The initiative consisted of a series of postgraduate high-energy physics courses that were taught from Europe," explains Professor and one of LA-CoNGA's coordinators, Luis Núñez. 

Over time, the desire to contribute to their region grew even more than expected. From the seed of CEVALE2 emerged LA-CoNGA, which currently offers a master's programme in areas such as instrumentation, physics, and data science, in which about 50 students from the Industrial University of Santander and Antonio Nariño University (Colombia), San Francisco de Quito University and the University of Experimental Technology Research Yachay (Ecuador), National University of Engineering and San Marcos University (Peru), and Central University and Simón Bolívar University (Venezuela) have already participated. 

Through LA-CoNGA, these students can receive classes from experts from the Universities of Paris and Paul Sabatier, both in France, and the Technical University of Dresden, in Germany, strengthening inter-institutional relationships between Europe and Latin America within the virtual research and learning community and promoting convergence in the advanced physics curriculum offerings at higher education institutions. 

Three cohorts have been conducted so far, between 2021 and 2023, involving 30 instructors from Latin America and Europe, and there are already over 200 classes available in open access, including videos, documents, notebooks, and data sets. 

Past and Future Challenges 

After the project's formalization and its application and approval to receive support from the Erasmus Programme in 2019, the LA-CoNGA Physics team faced a major challenge in its early days: the Covid-19 pandemic. "This created many difficulties, such as the impossibility of face-to-face meetings and access to universities, the limited internet bandwidth in our cities, and the time commitment conditions of postgraduate students in the region." The solution, according to Núñez, was collaboration. "We began to look among research groups in Latin America to see what resources they were using, what remote education equipment could be shared, and thus we managed to move forward," recalls the academic. 

It was only at the end of 2021 that LA-CoNGA could effectively take the first steps related to purchasing equipment and creating laboratories to have an infrastructure like the one that was planned by its proponents. The first in-person laboratory practices took place in 2022, and the consolidation of technical staff training for the new remote instrumentation laboratories occurred in 2023. All this experience, however, was not in vain. 

"Among other things, we are proud to have not only resisted the pandemic but also to have used a number of lessons learned to be able to put forward new initiatives. Moreover, the pandemic forced us to look ahead, to think about how to make LA-CoNGA sustainable once we no longer have Erasmus funding, which is currently the case. The conclusion was just one: it is necessary to share human and technological resources. We continue to operate because there is a community of colleagues in Peru and Ecuador who are working. That is the key to continue growing," says Núñez. 

And as "unity makes strength," LA-CoNGA now has instrumentation laboratories installed in all participating universities in Latin America. In this same spirit, the collaborative work of the laboratories is joined by the capacities and services of two other important allies in the region: RedCLARA and the Advanced Computing System of Latin America and the Caribbean (SCALAC). The advanced Latin American network cooperates with the MiLAB platform, a service created to support the management of data, research codes, and communications of research groups, facilitating collaborative work and ensuring the preservation, availability, and confidentiality of their information. SCALAC, in turn, provides supercomputing capabilities for capturing the information researchers need. "Our relationship with LA-CoNGA dates back to the beginning of the project's activities, and many SCALAC members are formally involved in it. We are very happy to collaborate with such a relevant project within the digital ecosystem that is forming in our region," celebrates SCALAC President Carlos Jaime Barrios Hernández. 

For Luis Núñez, RedCLARA and SCALAC have been fundamental allies for LA-CoNGA's success. "Without these capabilities, we could do very little; our work would be much more complicated. But RedCLARA and SCALAC go beyond; these two networks are 'people meeting places,' community creation, and that's what we're looking for," he concludes. 

Therefore, LA-CoNGA's activities have already expanded beyond classes and laboratories, encompassing other initiatives such as seminar series, tutoring, workshops on scientific communication, and transversal initiatives with other communities, such as the Co-Afina Hackathons, citizen science projects with regional institutes. 

Next Steps 

If the obstacles have been overcome, the order now is to keep moving forward. In this regard, LA-CoNGA team has already defined what the next step in this journey will be: EL-BONGO, the E-Latin America Digital Hub for Open Growing Communities in Physics. 

Based on the lessons learned in LA-CoNGA, the initiative seeks to drive the digital transformation of higher education by promoting virtual research communities in Latin America, with the addition of researchers and experts from other universities and countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. "Imagine 'congas' adapted to different communities, aiming for targeted and research-focused training in areas like astroparticles, high-energy physics, high-performance computing, and seismology. Our dream is to develop technologies adapted in each of these Latin American communities. Moreover, to create capacities to build instruments. The idea is to promote what we call 'FabLabs,' fabrication laboratories with science, so that students can build low-cost scientific instruments," envisions the coordinator. 

EL-BONGO also aims to develop a hybrid and flexible Master's Programme based on mini-training modules with institutional validation through blockchain infrastructure, the creation of an Open Science Collaboration Center, developing digital platforms for e-Learning, research databases and virtual laboratories, collaboration platforms, and networking for students, educators, researchers, and industry professionals throughout Latin America and beyond. Among international partners, EL-BONGO already has partnerships with the University of Paris Cité, the University Paul Sabatier, in Toulouse, and the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon (INSA Lyon) in France, as well as the University of Salamanca in Spain. A true global community committed to the development of Latin American research, proving that if adages exist, it's for a reason. 

Rambla República de México 6125.
Montevideo 11400. Uruguay.

Running Projects