CEO Visits LifeWatch Bulgaria

LifeWatch Bulgaria Consortium

Last week, the Agricultural University of Plovdiv hosted the first two-day working meeting of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium, Bulgaria being the newest member state of LifeWatch ERIC, the e-Science Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research.

The meeting was also attended by Dr Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC’s CEO, who travelled to Plovdiv to conduct a two-day training course for the Bulgarian partners of LifeWatch ERIC, introducing them to the Research Infrastructure’s goals, objectives, activities, functioning, vision and mission. The rights and obligations of the Bulgarian consortium, as a full member of LifeWatch ERIC, and the respective benefits, advantages and commitments in projects led by LifeWatch ERIC were also discussed. At the same time, Dr Arvanitidis focused on the challenges of emerging on a global scale as a research infrastructure for biodiversity conservation and restoration in conditions of in climate change.

During the meeting, the leaders of the co-founders of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium signed an Additional Agreement, by which the Faculty of Biology of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Green Balkans Association became new full members of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium.

International Women’s Day 2022: Tatyana Bileva

Tatyana Bileva

For International Women’s Day 2022, we at LifeWatch ERIC are putting eight scientists in the spotlight. Each of the LifeWatch ERIC member states has proposed a figure who has broken boundaries over the course of her lifetime, and is an inspiration to younger generations looking to pursue a career in STEM.

As we explored in the podcast we recorded for The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, women are still underrepresented in various scientific fields, such as engineering, computer science and AI. Additionally, scientific research in general is not only unbalanced in terms of composition (33% female) but also in terms of hierarchy, with only 12% of national science academy members being women, who are disproportionately overlooked when it comes to promotion and grants.

The women at the centre of our campaign are very diverse, hailing from a range of countries and time periods, but they all have one thing in common: overcoming the odds in order to contribute to scientific improvement. We want to draw attention to just a fraction of the women who have defied the cultural barriers pitted against them to bring good to the world, and bring recognition where they might have been overlooked. 

Born in the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, Tatyana Bileva is an Associate Professor of Ecology at the city’s Agricultural University, where she has previously held the crucial role of Quality Manager. She is a bright researcher with long-term experience of a wide range of plant parasitic nematodes and soil ecology, and has published over 60 scientific publications and 2 books in the fields of Biodiversity, Taxonomy and Zoology.

Bileva has been involved in several multidisciplinary research works regarding the mapping of multiple nematode pests through GIS applications, and other themes in her research include biodiversity, environmental conflicts, ecosystem services and sustainable management. Her expertise allows for the development of high-level research work, and has worked on many  local and international projects. Her enthusiasm and gentle personality is not only conducive to establishing positive professional links, but makes her an inspiration for students wishing to pursue scientific work and career.

She was recently involved in STACCATO, Sustaining Agricultural Change through Ecological Engineering and Optimal use of Natural Resources, a BiodivERsA-funded EU project which focused on the analysis and evaluation of Ecosystem Services (ESS), and their sensitivity to land use patterns in agriculturally dominated landscapes. According to Eurostat, Bileva lives in one of just the four EU countries where the number of female scientists outweighs male scientists (52%).

Life below Water and Life on Land

LifeWatch ERIC Session UNGA76

On 1 October 2021, LifeWatch ERIC had the privilege of convening a session of the 76th UN General Assembly Science Summit*, dedicated to SDG 14, Life below Water, and SDG 15, Life on Land. LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, and CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, convened the event, which featured experts from all over the world, speaking in keynotes and sessions. An interdisciplinary and cross-domain approach is crucial to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and this was reflected in the choice of speakers: policymakers, researchers, doctors and social scientists, whose range of perspectives and expertise was well-received by the audience.

After the introduction, the first topic of discussion was on SDG 14, Life below Water, then on SDG 15, Life on Land, before moving on to examine approaches key to the achievement of the 2030 SDGs, such as strengthening international collaboration, pursuing transdisciplinary approaches and modes of capacity building. Recurrent hot topics included the increased use of e-Biodiversity tools, in particular remote observation, in fighting the biodiversity crisis, along with indigenous knowledge. Finally, speakers pondered issues to tackle at UNGA77 in September 2022 and opened up the floor to participants, who brought yet more unique perspectives to the table.

CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda summarised his main takeaways from the event:

“Integrating e-Biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management makes us stronger. Goals 14 and 15, along with all the SDGs, can be accomplished when we base our efforts on scientific evidence, FAIR data and FAIR services. We must work hand-in-hand across sectors, without leaving anyone behind, integrating indigenous knowledge into our approach and following the motto thinking globally, acting locally. Finally, we must be conscious that data by itself is not enough; it must be transformed into information, evidence, knowledge and innovation, combining the outcomes of both Green and Digital Agendas in order to create tangible Green Products together.”

Click here to watch the full session on YouTube.

*Coordinated and moderated by ISC, the UNGA76 Science Summit is taking place from 14 September – 14 October, its central aim being to raise awareness of the role and contribution of science to the attainment of the SDGs. Please see our previous news item for more information.

Speakers in order of first appearance:

Mr Declan Kirrane SSUNGA76 Organiser

Dr Christos Arvanitidis LifeWatch ERIC CEO

Ms Jyoti Mathur-Filipp Director of the Implementation and Support Division at the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada

Dr Ciara Leonard University College Dublin, Public Affairs Manager, UCD Research and Innovation; Moderator, Ireland

Dr Alberto Basset Interim Director of Service Centre, LifeWatch ERIC, Lecce, Italy

Dr Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo University Pablo de Olavide, Seville, LifeWatch Spain

Mr Michel Massart DEFIS, European Commission, Belgium

Dr Peter Heffernan UN Oceans Ambassador; Member, EU Mission Board: ‘Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal & Inland Waters’ Ireland

Prof. Mike Elliott University of Hull, UK

Dr Stephanie Splett Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Germany

Prof. Eric Ruuth Scientific CoordinatorIMIBIO, Argentina

Ms Inmaculada Figueroa EU-LAC ResInfra: Towards a new EU-LAC partnership in Research Infrastructures. LifEuLAC pilot

Prof. Javier Castroviejo-Bolívar Amigos de Doñana, Spain

Prof. Antonio Micha Director-General of the National Institute for Environmental Conservation INCOMAMalabo, Equatorial Guinea 

Dr Shirish Ravan Head, Beijing Office, The United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) Programme of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Vienna, Austria

Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda LifeWatch ERIC CTO, ICT Core Director and ERIC Forum Executive Board Member

Mr Stephen Peedell Knowledge for Sustainable Development and Food Security, Joint Research Centre European Commission, Belgium

Prof. Vladislav Popov Agriculture University of Plovdiv, LifeWatch Bulgaria

Dr José Manuel Ávila-Castuera LifeWatch ERIC AgroEcology Officer

Patrick Wormsthe Centre for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry CIFOR-ICRAF

Ms Africa Zanella, Director Centre for Sustainability and Gender Economics (CSGE), Australia-Spain

Dr Milind Pimprika Founder and Chairman CANEUS International, Centre for Large Space Structures and Systems

Dr Murray Hitzman iCRAG, Ireland

Dr Akhilesh Gupta Senior Adviser, Policy Coordination and Programme Management Division Dept of Science and Technology, India

Dr Lino Barañao Argentina

Kurt Zatloukal Medical University of Graz

LifeWatch ERIC in IKRI Launch

Click here to watch a short explanatory video on IKRI.

The UNGA76 Science Summit is in full swing, and LifeWatch ERIC has already played an active part in several sessions, looking forward to the LifeWatch ERIC-convened session on SDGs 14 and 15 on 1 October 2021. On 23 September, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda, alongside Prof Vladislav Popov and Ms Karina Angelieva from LifeWatch Bulgaria, took part in an important session on the launch of the Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI), which approximately 140 people attended.

The UNFSS (UN Food Systems Summit) recommended five ongoing Action Areas where the UN will place a particular focus and take increased responsibility to link the local to the global and support implementation at country level to maximise impact on the 2030 Agenda.* These Action Areas will help to organise, guide, and direct the wealth of initiatives emerging from the Summit process to achieve the SDGs. Action area 5: “Support the Means of Implementation” covers the following: Finance; Governance; Science and Knowledge (Indigenous Food Systems); Innovation, Technology, & Data, Capacity; and Human Rights, and beyond).

The “Global Research Initiative and Knowledge Repository to integrate Indigenous Knowledge into Food Systems” was developed as part of the UN Food Systems Summit process, with the collective efforts of CANEUS, together with The Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC), United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), The Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Platform (AERAP) and LifeWatch ERIC. It will contribute to action area 5: “Support Means of Implementation”, and was launched at the UN FSS Summit.

This Global research initiative aims to develop digital infrastructure to support more comprehensive R&D collaboration between the UN and the EU, AU, and other regions, creating partnerships and sustained access to data and information sources globally and lessening the regulatory burden associated with access to and use of public data. The initiative will function as a digital infrastructure known as IKRI, based on the EU Strategy Forum for Research infrastructures ESFRI. It will have a component of “Technology-based Repository” that utilises frontier Technologies (Earth observation and geospatial intelligence with 4th Industrial Revolution Technologies) for the development of a portal that captures, processes, analyses and presents Indigenous knowledge through multiple sources.

The IKRI is hoped to increase the level and range of partners who can bring Indigenous knowledge to collaborative research supported by the EU Horizon Europe Programme and other research programmes implemented at state level and committed to supporting the SDGs. It would further leverage the EU Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Programme, known as the Global Europe Programme, to support Indigenous knowledge, ensuring that developing nations are considered within the context of enabling global policies and related regulations to ensure that the global regulatory environment does not become a barrier to knowledge exchange, but rather supports access to and use of patent data, knowledge and know-how.

*(1) Nourish All People, (2) Boost Nature-based Solutions, (3) Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work & Empowered Communities, (4) Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses, and (5) Support Means of Implementation.

Welcome, LifeWatch Bulgaria!

LifeWatch Bulgaria

LifeWatch ERIC is delighted to announce that the 1 January 2022 will signal the expansion of the LifeWatch ERIC community, with the establishment of LifeWatch Bulgaria. On 8 July 2021, the General Assembly unanimously approved the application of Bulgaria to become the eighth full member of LifeWatch ERIC.

LifeWatch Bulgaria has already planned several forms of in-kind contribution to the LifeWatch Infrastructure, such as carrying out complex studies into the plant health of cultivated species in the context of sustainable agroecosystems. Such research will be carried out through its nominated partner organisation PlantHealth, the Centre for Diagnostics and Technologies in Plant Health. It is thought that Bulgaria’s membership of LifeWatch ERIC will be mutually beneficial, contributing to the advancement of European research into biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC Chief Executive Officer, made the following statement:

“The unanimous admission of Bulgaria to the LifeWatch ERIC Infrastructure by the General Assembly is testament to our enthusiasm about the expansion. Mr Krasimir Valchev, Bulgarian Minister for Education and Science, has expressed his confidence that Bulgaria shares common values and objectives with LifeWatch ERIC, and having read the Bulgarian Official Letter of Interest elaborating goals and plans for collaboration, the General Assembly was only too happy to agree. We have no doubt that Bulgaria will support and facilitate the accomplishment of LifeWatch ERIC mission, along with the activities and governance of the Consortium, and we look forward with anticipation to the activation of its membership in 2022.”

Countries wishing to join LifeWatch ERIC are welcome to consult our FAQ. Further questions and enquiries may be directed to statutoryseat[@]

The admission of members that are EU Member States is governed by the LifeWatch ERIC Statutes Art. 3 (Membership and representing entity), 4 (Membership and representing entity) and 8 (3) (General Assembly) with no special requirement in terms of voting majority.

New collaborations with Bulgaria and South Africa

As part of LifeWatch ERIC’s highly successful involvement in Transfiere 2021 in Málaga on Thursday 15 April 15 2021, two international bilateral meetings were chaired by Chief Technology Officer and Director of the Common Facility in Spain, Juan Miguel González-Aranda. 

The first involved the Deputy Minister of Education and Science from the Government of Bulgaria, Karina Angelieva, while the second was a meeting with the Deputy Director General of International Cooperation and Resources of the government of South Africa, Daan du Toit, accompanied by Vinny Pillay, Senior Science & Technology Representative to the EU, from the South African Department of Science & Innovation. 

Both of these important meetings counted on the involvement of representatives from the Region of Andalusia Government-Junta de Andalusia, first among whom was the Director General for Research and Knowledge Transfer of the Junta de Andalucía, Teresa Serrano Gotarredona.

The discussions were broad-ranging and positive, looking at future collaboration projects between the countries involved. Of particular interest for Bulgaria were relationships around Agroecology and the Marine domain; whereas joint actions aimed at EU-African Union cooperation on the Green Deal and Energy Transition were explored with South Africa.

LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative

Non-indigenous and Invasive species (NIS) are considered a major threat to biodiversity around the globe: they can impact ecosystems in many ways by outcompeting or predating on native species. Who has not heard of the Burmese pythons in Florida that eat alligators? The negative impact of imported rats and cats that have decimated island fauna populations? However, the long-term impacts of NIS on ecosystem integrity are poorly explored, and policy-makers are often left without sufficient information to make wise management decisions.

In the belief that the first steps in tackling biodiversity loss must be to improve our knowledge by developing better inter-disciplinary paradigms, LifeWatch ERIC is launching an exciting new Internal Joint Initiative (IJI), involving the scientific communities of National Nodes and other European Research Infrastructures, that will thoroughly describe the issues involved in ecosystem and habitat type vulnerability, and produce future scenarios under changing vectors to help decision-makers combat the impacts of climate change. 

The LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative will combine data, semantic resources, data management services, and data analysis and modelling from its seven member countries – Belgium, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain – to bring together national assets on a scale never attempted before. This integration of Common Facilities and National Nodes will provide the comprehensive and synthetic knowledge so much needed by institutions and administrators.

By deploying and publishing on the LifeWatch ERIC web portal the federated resources and e-Tools and e-Resources, the Internal Joint Initiative will also define the requirements and architecture of the LifeWatch ERIC virtual research environments, and provide a clear demonstration of the Infrastructure’s added value for researchers in addressing specific biodiversity and ecosystem management issues. 

Non-indigenous and Invasive Species are a global problem. They are distributed among most plant and animal taxa, and present a number of key issues that remain challenging for both researchers and policy-makers. The knowledge produced by the Internal Joint Initiative will thus be of global significance. It is to be hoped that this demonstration case will be seen to have scientific and socio-economic implications for many different fields of investigation over the coming decades.