LifeWatch ERIC in BiCIKL Kick-Off Meeting


The kick-off meeting for the Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library (BiCIKL) took place last week on 27-28 May! LifeWatch ERIC is proud to be one of the fourteen official partners of this Horizon 2020 project,* contributing to the establishment of open science practices in the biodiversity domain as it follows its own mission to become a worldwide provider of content and services for this research community.

But what is BiCIKL?

BiCIKL is an EU-funded project coordinated by Pensoft that aims to unite key European and international research infrastructures across ten countries in their quest to facilitate open science and fair data practices in the biodiversity scientific community. Its four key products have been identified as: a community equipped with tools for searching and accessing FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) interlinked data; an interlinked corpora of knowledge for biodiversity and related research domains; automated tools and workflows for data liberation and FAIRisation from literature; and semantic-based journal production workflows for publication and reuse of FAIR biodiversity data.

What exactly does it do?

BiCIKL plans to build a Biodiversity Knowledge Hub, providing access to data, associated tools and services at each stage and along the entire research cycle. Speaking technically, it will focus on harvesting, liberating, linking and reusing subarticle level data literature (specimens, material citations, samples, sequences, taxonomic names, taxonomic treatments, figures, tables, etc.), whether PDF- or XML-based. It will provide seamless linking and usage tracking of data along the line: specimens → sequences → species → analytics → publications → biodiversity knowledge graph → re-use.

What role does LifeWatch ERIC play?

LifeWatch ERIC, which already carries out specialised work in the areas of semantics and usage tracking, will be key in helping BiCIKL develop the methods, tools and workflows required for the realisation of BiCIKL goals. Its two main tasks will be to analyse the technical requirement of users and implement the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub (BiKH). It will participate in testing and streamlining interoperability and the alignment of findability, reuse and accessibility. Furthermore, LifeWatch ERIC will contribute to defining and implementing the necessary operational framework, as well as identifying BiKH components and translating the functional diagramme and operational framework into an educational cloud.

BiCIKL’s website is currently under construction, but you can follow its activities on Twitter.

*grant agreement No. 101007492, duration May 2021-2024

LifeWatch ERIC receives Sustainability Award

Sustainability Award

On 28 May, Fundación Ingenio, an initiative bringing together the main stakeholders of the agricultural sector in Murcia (Spain), presented LifeWatch ERIC with its Environmental Sustainability Award, as further recognition of the work it does in support of sustainable ecosystem management.

LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, accepted the award from the President of Murcia, Fernando López Miras, along with the Regional Minister of this area, Antonio Luengo Zapata. Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch CEO, sent a video message expressing his thanks, followed by a short speech from Juan Miguel González-Aranda emphasising the importance of fostering sustainable agroecosystems, in synergy with the EU Green DealSDG 2030, and the European AgroEcology Network, among other outstanding initiatives.

In addition, LifeWatch ERIC also participated in the radio programme “A vivir Tierra y Mar” with Radio Cadena SER.

LifeWatch ERIC would like to extend its congratulations to the other Environmental Sustainability Award winners: Cáritas Diocesanas for their efforts in supporting disadvantaged and deprived groups, and a family from the Campo de Cartagena area which boasts three generations of farmers.

LifeWatch ERIC showcases: new technology for biodiversity researchers

The 20–21 May was an important milestone for the LifeWatch ERIC, as it hosted its long-anticipated e-Science for NIS workshop, albeit in a virtual form due to the ongoing pandemic. The workshop was organised with the support of ENVRI-FAIR, and was hugely successful, attracting over 220 registrations. The aim of the event was to showcase the results of five research endeavours, known as validation cases, into Non-indigenous and Alien Species (NIS) conducted over the last 18 months within the LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative.

These validation cases led to the development of five separate workflows, created through the joint effort of scientists and ICT experts, both from LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities and Distributed Centres, to accommodate the data and analytical processes generally required by the NIS scientific community. In turn, these workflows have been integrated into Tesseract technical composability layer, the new Virtual Research Environment (VRE) platform being developed by LifeWatch ERIC. Both the innovative advances in technology and the associated scientific reports sparked engaged and enthusiastic discussion over the two days. In fact, the workshop proved to be particularly appreciated by attendees, with 85% rating it as “very good” or “excellent”, as well as the web-services presented also considered “very good” or “excellent” by 78% of participants.

LifeWatch ERIC is at the service of the biodiversity and ecosystem research community, and is constantly seeking to create opportunities for mutual exchange. For this reason, the presentations of the validation cases were complemented by a series of round tables, featuring academics and experts from a wide range of fields. The speakers debated the ecological, economic and social impact of NIS, and the need to work across disciplines, combining social and natural sciences. The final consensus was that greater coordination of data collections is required in order to integrate existing data from different sources, and find ways to enable access to such collections.

Non-indigenous Invasive Species have enormous impacts on ecosystem services, human health and on the economy. This is why LifeWatch ERIC was proud to present the results of the validation cases providing powerful and flexible workflows capable of integrating more data and services than has yet been possible. The workflows will be available in the LifeWatch ERIC Tesseract VRE, which among its many innovative functions, enable the import of data from different sources, their exploration in maps for validation, and the use of standard tools to connect data analytics through its HPC and cloud-related technologies. Tesseract is also built around the unique LifeWatch ERIC tool known as LifeBlock, which uses Blockchain technology to ensure the integrity of all data inputs and full recognition for contributors. The VRE is not only an innovative tool that can be customised to other bioregions, but it will continue to evolve in the light of future feedback from scientists. In the long run, the use of Tesseract will contribute to boosting social awareness about biodiversity and help policymakers concerned about habitat conservation to implement sound science-based decisions.

LifeWatch ERIC would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the superb efforts of all the team members involved, and to thank ENVRI-FAIR Science Cluster for its support during the workshop, as well as all the wonderful speakers and participants who actively contributed to make this 2-day workshop a success and with whom LifeWatch ERIC hopes to continue working in the future.

The recording of the workshop will shortly be made available, in the meantime, you can find the workshop presentations here.

Research Infrastructure mobilisation in response to COVID-19


In a virtual workshop on 11 May 2021, hosted by the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) and Science Europe, Chief Executive Officer Christos Arvanitidis spoke about how LifeWatch ERIC has contributed to answering critical questions that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, including collaboration and data sharing between Research Infrastructures (RIs). COVID-19 had a substantial impact on the operations of analytical facilities that serve external users, for example.

At a time in which physical access to RIs has been restricted, Dr Arvanitidis said, LifeWatch has been able to offer a collaborative computing environment that is secure, accurate and transparent, delivering continuity and versioning control. Some projects, like the Internal Joint Initiative, have continued as in-house “in remote-working”, other projects have been “fast-tracked” for high priority research.

EOSC Future, ENVRI-FAIR and the ERIC Forum are some of the European RI projects that have benefited from LifeWatch ERIC’s input, resources, building of commonalities or provision of collaboration spaces. “We are proud to have enabled access to other RIs in these difficult times. We have accelerated the diffusion of data and results, and supported policy actions to enable RIs to mobilise effectively. After all, we’re all in the same boat,” said Dr Arvanitidis.

Click here for the presentation slides.    

Steps forward for Research Infrastructure collaboration at EuroGOOS Conference


The 9th EuroGOOS International Conference took place online from 3-5 May 2021, and saw the participation of hundreds of scientists, technologists and policymakers involved in ocean observation technologies. The full name of the conference was “Advances in Operational Oceanography – Expanding Europe’s Ocean Observing and Forecasting Capacity”, in light of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and as the marine domain is one of its specialised fields, LifeWatch ERIC was delighted to participate in the side event “Cooperation Framework between Marine Research Infrastructures” (RIs).

Eleven marine RIs took part, with each infrastructure giving a short presentation before leaving the floor open to discuss how to bolster RI cooperation moving forward, also with a view to better supporting the roll-out of the European Green Deal. LifeWatch ERIC CEO Christos Arvanitidis presented several ideas and projects designed to foster collaboration between RIs and the research sector more generally, among which the ERIC FORUM, EOSC Future and the LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative, along with its technical integration layer provided by the innovative developments of Tesseract and LifeBlock. Critically, he identified the principal challenge facing RIs as cultural: the difficult task of reshaping the overriding scientific praxis from individualistic to collaborative. The desired result would be a dynamic networking synthesis, and here Christos quoted E. O. Wilson of Harvard University: “jumping together of knowledge by the linking of facts and fact-evidenced theory across disciplines to create common ground of explanation“. He finally focused on the essential step that needs to be taken regarding the identification and investments in areas of common RI interest, in other words, joint investments in their “trading zones“, the most promising areas for scientific research and technological innovation.

Participants recognised benefits of enhanced RI cooperation as being strength in numbers – having a louder voice, more opportunities and larger visibility – as well as the all-important reduction in workload overlap and cost. Increased cohesion would also give rise to opportunities such as the possibility to provide joint education and training programmes for scientists. Due to the vast range of services provided and the complexity of wide-scale collaboration, the RIs were quick in identifying data and service compatibility and integration as the main potential issue, noting however that the cutting-edge work being carried out by LifeWatch ERIC – particularly on the Tesseract platform for building Virtual Research Environments  – could be key to boosting interoperability and integration.

After a fruitful discussion, the members concluded that the best course of action was increased training and exchange between RIs, in terms of communication, personnel and projects, in order to fill network and knowledge gaps. Christos reiterated that RIs require the support of the research community and the community of practice at large in order to succeed, as well as the importance of promoting cross-domain research and co-developing common platforms. All in all, participants were enthusiastic about the idea of drafting a joint White Paper in order to define key shared objectives and consolidate a common strategy for marine RIs. Stay tuned!