Celebrating European Researchers’ Night 2021

European Researchers' Night 2021

Friday 24 September marked the 2021 edition of European Researchers’ Night (ERN), the Europe-wide event which takes place every year on the last Friday of September. The aim of the initiative is to bring research and researchers closer to the public, displaying the diversity of science and its impact on citizens’ daily lives.

The LifeWatch ERIC Common Facility in Spain celebrated the occasion by taking part in ERN Seville (Spain), setting up its own designated area in the Plaza de San Francisco. Here it presented the SUMHAL Project (Sustainability for Mediterranean Hotspots in Andalusia integrating LifeWatch ERIC), which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund. The core objective of this project is biodiversity conservation in sustainable natural/semi-natural systems of the Western Mediterranean, using high-tech infrastructures. Speakers included Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Margarita Paneque, National Research Council of Spain and Delegate for Andalusia and Extremadura, and Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO and ICT-Core Director, in the left-hand photo above.

In Portugal, on the other hand, ERN2021 saw activities taking place in 20 cities, with the active involvement of PORBIOTA, which coordinates LifeWatch Portugal. The Researchers for European Green Growth and Education Consortium, coordinated by the Ciência Viva Agency, together with the Institute for Research & Innovation in Health and the Institute of Chemical and Biological Technology ‘António Xavier’, mobilised 18 science centres, which promoted 78 build-up activities and over 100 activities. Altogether, around 7000 participants of all ages were engaged in the programme.
In turn, Science for Climate, coordinated by the Portuguese National Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Lisbon, brought together the Universities of Minho, Coimbra and Évora, the University Institute of Lisbon, the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies, and the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory. The partners, several of which belong to PORBIOTA, promoted 7 build-up activities, including a bioblitz, and an open day for school groups, which set up 13 activities in various scientific fields. In addition, an online programme with 90 different activities was promoted, and on the 24 September, an onsite programme with 156 activities took place in Évora, Lisbon, Coimbra and Braga, mobilising a total of 4581 participants. The right-hand photo shows the open night at the Portuguese National Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Lisbon.

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

Science, Technology and Innovation: Transfiere 2021

LifeWatch colleagues pose for a photo wearing masks at Transfiere Forum

A tantalising glimpse into post-pandemic life last week as Transfiere, Spain’s biggest professional and multi-sectoral forum for knowledge and technology, was given the green light to be held in-person. Over 2,000 professionals attended Transfiere 2021 in Málaga on 14 and 15 April, among whom the LifeWatch ERIC Common Facility in Spain and LifeWatch Spain Node. That the annual Forum was allowed to go ahead (with health and safety measures in place) confirms its status as one of the most valuable intellectual exchanges on technology transfer and innovation for research ecosystems in Southern Europe.

Staying true to form, the organisers behind Transfiere 2021 made it possible to check in to more than 3,000 meetings with potential partners, among which some 30 universities and research institutions. Many important bilateral meetings and presentations took place, one such being the table on the Circular Economy, where LifeWatch ERIC’s Chief Technical Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, spoke alongside other eminent participants such as representatives of Airbus, Mercadona, CDTI and several Innovation Technology Parks.

Meanwhile, at LifeWatch ERIC’s own dedicated exhibition booth, the ERDF Andalusia programme was met with keen interest by the hundreds of visitors to the stand. During such institutional visits and working meetings at the booth, LifeWatch ERIC staff were only too happy to reply to the inundation of questions and requests received, highlighting LifeWatch ERIC’s increasingly salient profile in the research sector.

Institutional interest in LifeWatch ERIC at Transfiere 2021

Institutional interest in LifeWatch ERIC: New collaborative partnerships sealed with handshakes at Transfiere 2021

Transfiere 2021, from 14–15 April in Málaga, Spain was all about sharing scientific, technological and innovation knowledge to promote innovation and connect science and business. The perfect forum, in fact for LifeWatch ERIC to show its prowess and competitiveness. LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer Juan Miguel González-Aranda jointly with staffers from the Common Facility in Spain and the LifeWatch Spain Node welcomed at the LifeWatch ERIC booth a number of visits from representatives of local, regional, national and international governments, universities, and other research centres.

On Wednesday, 14 April, Enrique Playán-Jubilar, Director of the Spanish State Research Agency-Ministry of Science and Innovation, and Teresa Serrano-Gotarredona, Directorate General of Research & Knowledge Transfer – Regional Government of Andalusia-Junta de Andalusia visited our booth. Thursday, 15 April was the turn of Elías Bendodo Benasayag, Minister of the Presidency of the Junta de Andalucía, Francisco de la Torre Mayor of Málaga, and Jesús Alonso Sánchez Secretary General of Science, Technology & Innovation at the Regional Government-Junta de Extremadura.  These high-ranking officials showed strong support and reaffirmed their commitment to the projects and initiatives on display and took a great interest in LifeWatch ERIC.  

We were also honoured by the visit of other public administration representatives and decision makers in the field of sustainable ecosystems management and services, including: Raúl Jiménez Jiménez, recently appointed as Managing Director of the Andalusian Digitalisation Agency, a long-time supporter of LifeWatch ERIC through the Smart Food ERDF Andalusia project; Inmaculada Aguilar Nacher, DG of the Spanish Science and Technology Foundation-FECYT, accompanied by Borja Izquierdo, International Science Department Director at FECYT; Daniel Escacena Ortega, Director of Projects in the Andalusia Knowledge Agency-Junta de Andalusia; the Rectors of the Pablo de Olavide and Málaga Universities, Francisco Oliva Blázquez and José Ángel Narváez Bueno, respectively; and Fernando Ferrero Álvarez-Rementería, Director for Strategic Investments at IDEA-Junta de Andalusia, among others

This level of interest at such an intense forward-looking forum is a great tribute to, and recognition of, the role LifeWatch ERIC can play in contributing to new EU Green Deal-based and circular socioeconomics models. New collaborative initiatives were also forged with South Africa and Bulgaria. 

5th LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly

5th General Assembly

The Dirk Bouts Building in the Flemish Administrative Centre (VAC) in Leuven, Belgium, was the scene for the 5th LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly, from 11–12 December 2019, chaired by Gert Verreet. Composed of the representatives from all full Member States and observers, the purpose of General Assembly Meetings, the highest governing body of LifeWatch ERIC, is to set the overall direction and to supervise the development and operation of LifeWatch ERIC. 

At the heart of this 5th General Assembly lies the prototype of the LifeWatch ERIC Platform, an integrated initiative of LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities presented by the CTO, Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda. Thanks to its application layers and user-friendly interfaces, the prototype will enable the integration of all the resources, including web services developed by National Nodes over the years, as well as those resulting from Common Facilities and Joint Initiatives, like the recent investigation undertaken by the infrastructure members on the current and future challenges of NIS in Europe, into Virtual Research Environments (VREs). The prototype was adopted by the General Assembly, officially marking the beginning of the deployment and operational phase, with its implementation expected to continue until the end of next year.

With many other important issues on the agenda, this rich two-day meeting moved from a review of LifeWatch ERIC activities in 2019 to forward planning for 2020 and delivering general frameworks for implementation. Among these, the Assembly approved the general framework for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to be used as the basis for a roll-out to national nodes in the course of the year, and an engagement policy to reinforce our dialogue with – and capacity to reach out to – external stakeholders. By finalising the rules and procedures for subsidiary bodies, and having established the selection committee to complete the recruitment of one of the most strategic positions, the Chief Financial Officer, LifeWatch ERIC will be in good shape to hit the ground running in 2020.

Round Table COP25

The 25th UN Climate Change Conference, originally planned for Chile, is taking place in Madrid, Spain, 2-13 December, 2019.  LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technical Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda and Francisco Hernández, Coordinator of LifeWatch Belgium, presented on Tuesday 10 December to the Round Table COP25: Opportunities & Challenges and the 2030 Agenda.

The event, co-organised by the Chilean and Spanish ambassadors to Brussels, Patricio Torres and Beatriz Larrotcha Palma, was supported by LifeWatch Belgium, LifeWatch Spain and LifeWatch ERIC, and hosted in the Instituto Cervantes, Brussels, by its Director, Ana Vásquez. The keynote address was given by Barbara Pesce-Monteiro, UNDP Office, Belgium, the UN Secretary General’s representative to the UN and Belgium. 

The panel discussion moved from the vision of climate diplomacy to its implementation, covering experiences on mitigation and adaptation to climate change in line with the 2030 agenda. As the pre-eminent infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research, combining the scientific community and national institutions, it is fundamental for LifeWatch ERIC to be part of these international strategic discussions on climate change.

2nd Dahlem-Type Workshop

2nd Dahlem-Type Workshop

The LifeWatch ERIC Internal Joint Initiative was launched in October 2019 to design and construct a Virtual Research Environment capable of processing and modelling available data on one of the planet’s most burning biodiversity issues, the proliferation of Non-indigenous and Invasive Species (NIS), in order to help mitigate their impacts. 

Development of a new Virtual Research Environment (VRE) is essential to further integrate the tools and services available in the LifeWatch ERIC web portal. The process will allow stakeholders greater ability to develop their research activities within the e-Science Infrastructure, whilst also clearly demonstrating the added value that LifeWatch ERIC’s advanced technologies can bring not only to the biodiversity and ecosystem scientific community, but to policymaking and human wellbeing around the globe. 

The conceptual paper and workflow-timeline developed at the 1st Dahlem-type workshop in Seville, Spain, 14-18 October, formed the basis of this 2nd Dahlem-type Workshop, organised in Rome, Italy, from 2-6 December, this time coordinated by the LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda. This 2nd Dahlem-type workshop delivered the first prototype of the new LifeWatch ERIC Non-indigenous and Invasive Species Virtual Research Environment. The collaborative construction and deployment approach and the intense interaction between ICT and NIS experts made it possible to achieve definition of the requirements and needs of the scientific community and of the main architecture layers (application, e-Services composition, e-infrastructure integration, and resources) that underpin the VRE. 

1st Dahlem-type Workshop

LifeWatch ERIC just launched an Internal Joint Initiative (IJI) focusing on the topic of Non-indigenous and Invasive Species (NIS) with the aim of developing new dedicated Virtual Research Environments. The IJI kicked off with the organisation of the LifeWatch ERIC 1st Dahlem-type Workshop: Current and future challenges of NIS in Europe, which took place from 14th to 18th October, in the Casa de la Ciencia, and the V. De Madariaga Foundation, in Seville, Spain. 

The choice of the Dahlem-type1 workshop stems from the desire of the infrastructure to use the most participative interdisciplinary approach in the search for new perspectives to drive the international research agenda on NIS and to involve relevant communities in the development of validation cases. For this reason, experts from different domains – from scientists working in the field of NIS, to ICT specialists and bio-informaticians – gathered in Seville to select the most promising research and management questions, identify the resources and tools available and specify those to be developed.

As a first step, participants identified and clustered the main issues related to NIS and discussed two macro topics, 1) risks and impacts of NIS, and 2) long-term responses of both the NIS and the native communities after invasion. Participants agreed on the development of a general framework to describe and estimate both risks and impacts of NIS (Topic one) and responses from the perspective of both NIS and native communities (Topic two) in the context of climate change. Several validation cases were proposed for each topic to apply this new framework.

On topic one, the suggested validation cases focus on the EU-scale assessment of ecosystem and habitat-type vulnerability to NIS in the context of climate change, including an assessment of sink source dynamics for specific, model, ecosystem types such as harbour ecosystems. On topic two, the chosen validation cases are based on the availability of long-term data series on a number of relevant invaders: (1) Caulerpa taxifolia and racemose; (2) Callinectes sapidus & other Crustaceans; (3) freshwater fishes at a global scale; (4) Mnemiopsis; (5) Rugulopteryx; (6) Ailanthus invasion and response monitoring with satellite images; (7) Metagenomics for invasive species; and (8) early detection of NIS with the metagenomic approach. An additional validation case was also proposed for later collaboration dealing with the risk for human health of NIS as vectors of pathogens.

The  LifeWatch ERIC ICT team’s contribution was to highlight those data resources and services required for the development of the validation cases and to suggest the implementation of an innovative approach, LifeBlock, a LifeWatch ERIC service that for the first time ever applies blockchain technology to biodiversity science. 

As an immediate result of this collaboration, scientists and ICT experts jointly outlined a conceptual paper and designed a workflow that will serve as an organised timeline along which different e-tools have to be developed to help address relevant issues related to NIS for scientists, managers, decision-makers and society.

The next Dahlem-type workshop will take place in Rome from 2nd to 6th December 2019, this time driven and coordinated by the ICT community, to produce a second technical paper and pave the way towards developing the required Virtual Research Environments.

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1 A Dahlem-type Workshop is defined as a quest for knowledge through an interdisciplinary communication process aimed at expanding the boundaries of current knowledge, addressing high-priority problems, identifying gaps in knowledge, posing questions aimed at directing future inquiries, and suggesting innovative approaches for solutions. 

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.

Info day on ERDF for Andalusia Region

LifeWatch ERIC held its open info day on 4 June 2019, in the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC – the Spanish National Research Council), in Sevilla (Spain), on European Research Development Funds -ERDF – for the Andalusia Region. The focus was on the resources allocated for LifeWatch ERIC on the programme. Through this networking event LifeWatch ERIC aims to identify and highlight key directions to boost research in tight collaboration with its Communities of Practice at pan-European and regional levels.

LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis opened the event, and Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC interim CTO, presented LifeWatch ERIC infrastructure in Spain, its ICT architecture and its integration at the European level. 

The many contributions scheduled during the day aimed at delivering a clearer picture of the potential and applications for research that LifeWatch ERIC brings, from smart and remote sensing, to supercomputing and data interoperability, from data management, the semantic web and Big Data, to deep learning and Artificial Intelligence. Cloud computing services such as Virtual Research Environments, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS featured consistently.

The event demonstrated integration and synergies with specific projects, such as EOSC, IBER-GRID and IBERLIFE, GBIF and networks like EU-CELAC and BIODIVERSA. Connections with the institutional actors were also at the heart of today’s programme with particular reference to the Environmental information system of Andalusia (REDIAM) and the Spanish cadastre of biodiversity (IEPNB). Last but not least, a wide space was left for the presentation of case studies and Q&A, with a full session dedicated to the technical aspects and project teams.