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The OPTICON-RadioNet Pilot brings together the well-established ground-based astronomy community, in an effort to support and develop seamless access to radio and optical facilities in an efficient, co-ordinated and future-looking programme.

It offers access to an unrivalled set of major and specialised observatories across Europe (and around the world) covering the optical, infra-red, sub-mm and radio wavebands to open the way to new discoveries. 

This represents by far the largest and most comprehensive suite of facilities to be brought together and offered through a single programme to the European scientific community.

The success of European physical science is based on participation in large-scale inter-governmental (IGO) facilities together with a federation of national scale research infrastructures (RIs). This is particularly true in the two major domains of ground-based astronomy at optical/IR and radio/sub-mm wavelengths. 

In the optical domain, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) provides the largest infrastructures [in addition to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)] and these are complemented by an array of nationally funded and operated optical facilities offering specialised capabilities. OPTICON has been the EC-funded network which has supported this complementary approach, successfully coordinating access to the multi-national network of medium-sized telescopes and running a coherent R&D programme towards new ESO instrumentation.

In the radio domain, decades of strong national investment have built up an unrivalled suite of world-class instruments covering sub-mm to metre wavelengths and in recent years European partners have come together with international counterparts to build and operate ALMA, and to design and develop the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), established as an IGO in 2021. RadioNet has been the EC-funded program which has fostered and developed the community, supported access to and coordinated R&D for these radio facilities. 

To do the best science, it is essential to provide easy access to facilities across the electromagnetic spectrum and to support rapid observations in all wavebands to capture transient events. Hence the optical and radio communities have decided to come together in the Opticon Radionet Pilot (ORP) to provide for the first time a coordinated and coherent plan for access to an integrated set of optical and radio facilities, including rapid response capabilities, with the development of simplified and harmonized access procedures across the spectrum, support and training for multi-wavelength astronomers, and specific developments to improve the capabilities of facilities. 

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020  (H2020) research and innovation programme, the project was launched on 24 March 2021. The CNRS is in charge of coordinating the project, together with the University of Cambridge and the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.