07/2/14 6:05 PM

The Netherlands, stimulating e-Science

After a three year preparatory project for LifeWatch coordinated by the Netherlands, eight countries signed a Memorandum of Intent in support of LifeWatch. The Netherlands, Spain and Italy are leading the process to establish LifeWatch as an 'ERIC': a European Research Infrastructure Consortium. The Netherlands is in an excellent position to take up the scientificleadership in LifeWatch, given the wealth of available data, excellence inbiodiversity research, and ongoing investments in the development of eScience.

The Dutch contribution, as formulated in the 2011 proposal for the NWORoadmap for large-scale research infrastructures, has three pillars, overarched by the LifeWatch Research and Innovation Center:

  • Create 'virtual laboratories' in fields where the Netherlands excels (Wadden, Water, Cities and Species), but open to new initiatives.
  • The 'common operations' concern contributions to the LifeWatch European Infrastructure, i.e., the generic working environment with common data services,access to state-of-the-art hardware support, and facilities for networking, cooperation and training.
  • Development of the 'innovation lab' to stimulate new eScience Innovations in biodiversity research and its applications.


Figure of the planned structure and embedding of the Dutch LifeWatch Research and Innovation Center.










The Dutch LifeWatch community is very broad, encompassing many of the existing biodiversity research eScience institutes and in the Netherlands. The community is open for other initiatives and organisations to join.

Partners who signed a Memorandum of Understanding to contribute to LifeWatch:
• Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam
• AlterraWageningen UR
• BiGGrid
• Centraal Bureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS)
• Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies (CEES), University of Groningen
• Centrum voor Milieuwetenschappen Leiden (CML), University of Leiden
• Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI)
• Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS)
• Deltares
• Gegevensautoriteit Natuur (GaN)
• IMARES, Wageningen UR
• Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Twente University
• Informatics Institute (IvI), University of Amsterdam
• Institute for Water and Wetland Research (IWWR), Radboud University Nijmegen
• KWR Watercycle Research Institute (KWR)
• NCB Naturalis, The Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity
• Netherlands eScience Center (NLeSC)
• Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO)
• Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)
• Stichting "Nationaal GBIF Kennisknooppunt" (NLBIF)
• VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
• Wageningen University
• 10 PGO's joint in the Stichting VeldOnderzoek Flora en Fauna (VOFF)

Virtual Laboratories

In a Virtual Laboratory (VL) scientists and stakeholders work together on actual topics, assisted by an excellent infrastructure that allows access to all relevant distributed data, and supported by adequate computing facilities.

The blueprint of the VL Water can serve as an example. The goal is to build a system with easy access to high-quality monitoring data at the European level, in order to study what is changing in aquatic ecosystems, to understand the fundamental drivers and to formulate innovative and cost-effective management actions.

LifeWatch builds forth on existing data sources as GBIF, NDFF and LimnoData, but also provides access to environmental data. Functionality is added for analyzing the dynamics of water fluxes at different scales, or potential effects of climate change. Information on socio-economic trends are added for retrospective studies on their impact, as well as prospective studies aiming to find the right balance between biodiversity targets and human needs such as clean drinking water and safety.










The Virtual laboratory Wadden focuses on the dynamics of species and ecosystems at different scales (temporal and geographic) to better understand the functioning of one of the most important marine wetlands in Europe. Goal is to facilitate a much more dynamic system management of biodiversity of this Unesco World Heritage Site. (Click here for more information on Virtual Lab Migratory Birds.)

The Virtual laboratory Water focuses on biodiversity in aquatic food webs of freshwater ecosystems (ditches, rivers, lakes), given the background of the European Water Framework Directive. An example is how water management can be improved by bio-manipulation, taking the entire water cycle and all its components into account.

The Virtual laboratory Species focuses on creating European-wide information services on species identities and their characteristics. In particular the role of species in the ecosystem and their value as an indicator of environmental quality or environmental change will be studied.

The Virtual laboratory Cities focuses on biodiversity in urban-rural gradients where urban , agricultural and socio-economic developments have to be reconciled to create a high quality living environment for millions of people, with special attention to citizen science, education and awareness.

Policy development

The Dutch biodiversity research and eScience community expressed a high interest for the LifeWatch initiative. An expression for this is the Memorandum of Understanding signed in January 2011, which has until now been signed by 24 signatory parties.

The Dutch National Research Foundation (NWO) has supported the start-up phase of LifeWatch NL. The Dutch LifeWatch community submitted a proposal to the National Research Foundation (NWO) for the Roadmap call for large-scale research infrastructures in August 2011 (pdf) in order to achieve financing for the construction phase, planned from 2012.The final decision is expected in summer 2012.

Several organisations have signed a Letter of Support for this initiative: Arcadis, ETI, Geodan, IBM Benelux, jongNLingenieurs, KPMG, maatG, Municipality of Amsterdam and Economic Development Board Amsterdam, NetwerkGroene Bureaus, Oracle, Witteveen+Bos, Yahoo!


• For scientific questions:
Prof. Peter van Tienderen (Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam)

• For technical questions:
Evert Lammerts (SARA)

• For any other questions:
Silvia Wissel (Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam)