European Researchers’ Night

September is a busy month in the LifeWatch ERIC calendar, not only for the many scientific congresses, but also because of the increased outreach to the general public, students and families in particular, to interest them in the science behind biodiversity and ecosystem research. Within the framework of the European Researchers’ Night, on 27 September 2019, events were staged in member countries to highlight the impact of research on our daily lives.

As a record 7.6 million people took to the streets in Climate Strike protests around the world, universities, laboratories and museums across Europe were opening their doors to promote how scientific researchers contribute to society by displaying their work in interactive and engaging ways, with the ultimate aim of motivating young people to embark on research careers of their own. 

The LifeWatch Greece team participated in a European Researchers’ Night in the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Heraklion. Hundreds of people attended and had the opportunity to learn about marine research and aquatic biodiversity in different thematic pavilions and hands-on activities, including Virtual Reality, interactive games and demonstrations.

In Lecce, Italy, professors Alberto Basset (LifeWatch ERIC) and Giuseppe Corriero (LifeWatch Italy) joined “A Pint with Science”, an open event in a popular bar, talking about ‘Biodiversity Emergency, Objective Sustainability’ to a responsive crowd of followers on Thursday. 

The following day, LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre at the University of Salento opened its premises to young people and families, to play dedicated serious games on biodiversity and make enquiries about the infrastructure and its activities. Listening to videos of key scientists explaining how ecological science builds an understanding of the issues we face globally, visitors were guided to learn more about the key challenges ahead in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem research 

In the midst of popular calls to deal with current climate issues, these outreach events showcase the diversity of research, bring researchers closer to the public, mobilise citizens, and increase general awareness and understanding of how important research and innovation are in addressing societal challenges.

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.

Open Science and Big Data Management

International Summer School for Environmental & Earth Science Infrastructures

Lecce, 01-05/07/2019

In its second “edition” as an International Summer School on 1-5 July 2019, the Data FAIRness programme in Lecce, Italy attracted 25 participants from all over Europe to learn about the exciting opportunities in Open Science and Big Data management in environmental and earth sciences infrastructures. 

Organised by LifeWatch ERIC, together with the European ENVRIplus H2020 project and the University of Salento, the Summer School is a professional development intensive programme which progresses from theoretical learning and discussion and culminates in individual student presentations of how they would apply FAIR management principles to their own work. 

With representatives from Belgium, Estonia, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain, social interaction and professional networking was also a feature of the course. But at its core, the programme increases levels of knowledge, helps to overcome the fragmented nature of knowledge, and promotes greater complementarity and synergy between disciplines through the development of new common paradigms. 

Managing and analysing enormous quantities of data derived from a variety of sectors and disciplines is one of the greatest challenges that environmental and earth sciences have to face in the Information Age. Of the many tools and approaches have been developed to respond to the challenge, the most promising is ‘semantics’, which can be applied to the whole life cycle of data management, from acquisition to utilisation. 

The semantic approach effectively overcomes the existing barriers to finding, accessing, interoperating with, and then reusing and sharing ecosystem and biodiversity data. The result is a marked improvement in our capacity to understand the great environmental questions of our days and then to propose innovative, science-based solutions. 

The teachers on the Summer School were also an international mix: Barbara Magagna (Austria), Clement Jonquet (France), Jose Maria García (Spain), Margareta Hellström (Sweden), and Pierluigi Buttigieg (Germany) brought their collective expertise in support of course convenors Nicola Fiore (Italy) and Zhiming Zhao (Netherlands), while John Graybeal (USA) and Keith Jeffery (UK) contributed remote sessions.
 
The greater understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem research that LifeWatch ERIC promotes is of enormous practical use to the whole of society. It increases our capacities to respond to the environmental emergencies that the world is experiencing, especially factors which already today are the causes of poverty, social inequality, and growing economic uncertainty, not to mention conflicts sparked by competition for basic natural resources, like unpolluted air and water, food and sources of energy. 

Towards a cultural change | First LifeWatch ERIC Scientific Community Meeting

The Scientific Community Meeting held in Rome from 27  29 May 2019 was designed to bring together the wider LifeWatch ERIC scientific communities of researchers and developers to generate and advance the discussion of the most promising lines of scientific development. In the view of the conference coordinator, Alberto Basset, Interim Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre in Lecce and Professor of Ecology at the University of Salento, the 3-day event hosted by the Italian National Research Council, leader of the Italian contribution to the infrastructure, “was a great success”.

A truly international event, the meeting boasted 150 participants from 12 different countries which, thanks to the contributions given by LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities and National Nodes (Belgium, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain), delivered to its participants a rich programme featuring 20 plenary sessions and 40 presentations in working sessions. The Scientific Community Meeting was the first of its kind and ended in widespread positive feedback and calls for greater interdisciplinary cooperation.

The three days were structured around the three complimentary strands of Biodiversity & Ecosystem TheoryMarine Biodiversity & Ecosystem Functioning, and Data, Modelling & Supporting Disruptive Technologies. There was widespread appreciation of the e-Science capabilities that LifeWatch ERIC provides, and agreement that the architecture is flexible with a user-friendly interface.

Many technologies and innovative case studies were also on display: from remote sensor monitoring of fauna and flora populations, to collecting data on marine life. But beyond gizmos, the working groups ended up agreeing on the need for collaboration, to work across borders and to use metadata to create user stories that everyone can relate to, to create greater common understanding.

Over these three days in Rome, LifeWatch ERIC has moved closer to identifying major gaps in scientific knowledge that need to be addressed, has emphasised key societal challenges that biodiversity and ecosystem science are required to address, gathered indications of the services and VRE developments that user communities need, proposed innovative approaches, like the use of blockchain, and has identified the need to reinforce collaboration and trust. 

LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, closed proceedings by saying that the processes of life on this planet are complex; that we need complex infrastructures to model and understand that complexity, a task which no country can do alone; and that the scientific community has a responsibility to answer global concerns about climate change. He concluded, “We will use all our arsenal to integrate everything we have and try to give a synthetic knowledge to many more recipients, so we can make a proper response to society. All disciplines need to come together with open communication.”

You can find all of the presentations from the meeting on the minisite: www.lifewatch.eu/scientific-community-meeting

LifeWatch Italy

LifeWatch Italy

Italy is a founding member of LifeWatch ERIC and has always been strongly supported by a broad and transdisciplinary national scientific community. The involvement of the Italian scientific community resulted in the establishment of a Joint Research Unit, coordinated and led by the National Research Council (CNR). The JRU is composed of 34 active members, including high level institutions, scientific academies, national research institutes, international organisations, 20 universities, regional agencies, and an array of consortia and corporations (please see here for the full list). The prominence, quantity and diversity of our members represent the foundation of a national network that is pre-eminently capable of tackling the key topics of scientific debates of our days: biodiversity, ecosystems and e-Science.

Since its establishment in 2010, LifeWatch Italy has created the national e-Science infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research. Today, thanks to the ambitious LifeWatchPLUS project freshly granted by the Ministry for Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) with an investment of about 8 million euros in only three years, LifeWatch Italy is working to reinforce its national Infrastructure. Thanks to this action, LW-ITA will be capable of providing unprecedented computational power to advance the application of semantic resources, and the elaboration of data & metadata. This investment specifically aims at providing tools and platforms to support citizen science & education initiatives, while ensuring at the same time a tremendous expansion in the Infrastructure’s communication ability, which will soon include an advanced multimedia production centre and a museum. The latter makes it possible to virtually visit four types of ecosystems (mountain, semi-arid, polar and coastal/marine) accessing research data, information sheets, multimedia and 3D contents, supported by learning tools presented as serious games.

To find out more, please visit www.lifewatchitaly.eu.

LifeWatch ERIC Data Centres Working Meeting

LifeWatch-SI

Biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems, including those precious services sustaining our life and our societies, are at risk, affecting the ecological sustainability of our Planet, our well-being and our future.

LifeWatch ERIC, the European e-Science Infrastructure of Biodiversity and Ecosystem research (www.lifewatch.eu) has organised a meeting in Ljubljana, on 13–14 December 2019, discussing with representatives of Common Facilities, National Nodes and the wider Slovenian scientific community and partners in the LifeWatch Slovenia consortium on the vision, mission and operational priorities of the research infrastructure. The ambition was to deploy the proper e-Infrastructure to scientists in order to build the science-based knowledge needed by all stakeholders, including local communities, in order to address these key global challenges.

The meeting has been focused on biodiversity and ecosystem data management, since the data already available, and big data, that are going to be collected through new technologies and the work of thousands of scientists in Europe, are the foundation to build the new knowledge required within the context of climate changes and biodiversity loss. However, it is necessary that Open Science becomes a reality and proper tools, allowing scientists to find, access, integrate, re-use and analyse the data already collected by the scientific community, actually developed and made available. These issues and the organisation of Distributed Data Centres on biodiversity and ecosystem research have been discussed in the meeting with the contribution of scientists from Belgium, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia LifeWatch Nodes, as well as from other environmental research infrastructures, particularly researchers also contributing to DiSSCo, Distributed Systems for Scientific Collections.

The meeting has also highlighted the global relevance of the scientific research of the Slovenian Institutions on biodiversity and ecosystems to address these global challenges from experience on model ecosystem types distributed at the Biosphere scale and relevant in the context of climate change.

Metadata, Vocabularies & Ontologies

Metadata Vocabularies Ontologies

On 12 & 13 November, the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre organised the first working meeting on “Metadata, Controlled Vocabularies and Ontologies” in Lecce, Italy.

The aim of the meeting was to set a roadmap for a common strategy to be adopted on these within the LifeWatch ERIC community and in accordance with the FAIR principles.

Call for study cases in LW-ITA VREs and MoBiLab

LifeWatch Italy calls for proposals to develop study cases in/at:

1) the Phyto VRE and Alien Species VRE – LifeWatch Italy invites the interested researchers to submit projects proposals involving the re-use and/or the customization of resources produced by LW-ITA or by other initiatives (including infrastructures and projects), their integration with resources available to the project proponents, and the implementation of new e-services required to address the specific project questions – please download the full call

2) the distributed Laboratory of “Molecular Biodiversity” – LifeWatch Italy invites the interested researchers to submit projects proposals involving the production of molecular data through “Next Generation sequencing” technologies (e.g. sequencing of amplicons, genomes, metagenomes, transcriptomes and meta-transcriptomes) and their bioinformatic analysis – please download the full call.

Proposals shall be drafted using our application form and submitted via email (lifewatchitalia[at]unisalento.it) by 21 December 2018.

International Summer School on “Data Management in Environmental and Earth Science Infrastructures”

Between 9 – 13 July, around 40 academics, researchers, PhD students, data managers and research infrastructure developers from all across Europe gathered in Lecce, to join the International Summer School on “Data Management in Environmental and Earth Science Infrastructures: theory and practice”, organised by the H2020 ENVRIplus project and the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre.

In recent years, one of the major challenges in environmental and earth science has been managing and using continuously growing volumes of data collected across multiple disciplines, and educating both scientists and developers on how best to do so. Many different standards, approaches, and tools have now been developed to support the research data lifecycle, which need to be examined and, where appropriate, adopted by a wider community. In particular, modern semantic technologies provide a promising way to properly describe and interrelate different data sources in ways that reduce barriers to data discovery, integration, and exchange among environmental and ecological resources and the researchers who use them.

To address these challenges, ENVRIplus and the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre organised a five-day summer school providing an unique insight into the contemporary debate on data management in the environmental and earth sciences. The programme, combining theory with hands-on sessions, explored themes as diverse as reference modelling and research metadata semantics, data processing and e-infrastructure, identification and citation, cataloguing and provenance, and closed presenting two use cases on data management in the context of LifeWatch Italy.

15,000 scientists sign a Warning To Humanity

More than 15,000 scientitsts from about 180 countries have signed a Warning To Humanity against the consequences of our behaviour on the biosphere. The initiative, launched by William Ripple and published on Bioscience, aims at raising global attention on the need for a cultural and behavioural change in our growth and consumption patterns to avoid irreparably compromising the biosphere.

We are in fact in the twenty-fifth anniversary of a first call made by scientists in 1994, since then, with the exception of stabilising the stratospheric ozone layer, we, as global population, have not made enough for solving the environmental challenges stressed in the first call, and, even worse, most of these have become more and more critical over the years.

Alberto Basset, Ecologist at the University of Salento and founder of LifeWatch ERIC and LifeWatch Italy, interviewed by the Italian newspaper Repubblica, said that “our first priority is spreading an ecological culture raising citizens’ awareness on the interdependence of our well-being and health with those of the other species with whom we share our territory. Scientific knowledge and conservation aand restoration policies are definitely relevant, but the key factor is our behaviour and our perception of the value of ecosystems”.