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Creative-B Roadmap - toward a global virtual environment for biodiversity research

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Principal investigator Wouter Los of Amsterdam University addressing delegates attending the launch of the Roadmap (Picture: Wim Hugo)

Research infrastructures around the world supporting advanced biodiversity research have joined forces to consider how best to provide data and Internet tools to advance our understanding of our living environment.

Biodiversity includes all organisms on land and in water, from microscopic bacteria to the larger plants and animals. Research on biodiversity is investigating how these organisms co-exist and shape our planet.

Biodiversity researchers depend on data - observations and measurements - from all over the world. Similarly, policy makers and industries depend on research data and scientific results to make important decisions concerning human wellbeing with regard to vital products and processes such as fresh water, food, building materials and medicine.

Exploring avenues to bolster global biodiversity research

The European Union funded a project to bring research infrastructures from across the globe together to analyse and model digital data with software tools. The project, “Coordination of research e-infrastructure activities toward an international virtual environment for biodiversity” (Creative-B), explored a number of avenues to better serve global biodiversity research. Resulting recommendations cover common global priorities, the promotion of infrastructure interoperability, as well as legal and governance implications.

A strong global priority is to support the essential biodiversity variables as endorsed by GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems). Infrastructure interoperability is feasible, although different national Internet security systems may prohibit easy access to all essential resources for researchers.

From a legal point of view there are no major restrictions on sharing data and resources. However, conditions for sharing vary. This presents an obstacle in running automated analysis of data and software tools from different resources, since it makes the interaction between computer systems dependent on time-consuming human interventions.

Creative-B Roadmap is launched

The collaborating biodiversity research infrastructures have agreed on a joint Roadmap, which offers an analysis of opportunities and challenges, with potential solutions and recommendations. It was launched on 26 September 2014 to representatives of various science policy organisations and research institutes.

SAEON’s Chief Data and Information Officer, Wim Hugo, attended the final meeting of the Creative-B project and the public launch of its report on biodiversity data infrastructures on behalf of GEO-BON.

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Delegates discussing the Creative-B Roadmap at the launch (Picture: Wim Hugo)

At the event, he was invited to respond to the report from the perspective of South African institutions (the South African National Biodiversity Institute was a contributor to the project), the Research Data Alliance, and the ICSU World Data System.

Hugo emphasised the importance of including institutions in developing countries in global projects, pointing out that this served as recognition of their work and confirmed their role and importance to funders and stakeholders.

He went on to indicate the extent to which the Research Data Alliance could benefit from generalisation of the findings - many of the concerns identified and remedies proposed are common across several scientific disciplines.

Finally, he emphasised that it is becoming increasingly clear that Global Research Data Infrastructure cannot be sustainably provided by voluntary contributions or project-based research grants. The critical components will have to be funded for the long term - probably by government. Without this certainty, it is unlikely that third parties and the private sector would invest in value-added services and refinements of the infrastructure, and many of the opportunities identified by Creative-B may not be realised.

Hugo congratulated the Creative-B team on the successful completion of the project.

Watch this video for more information on Creative-B.

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Creative-B succeeded in drawing stakeholders from across the globe together for a single purpose - to provide a roadmap of global research data infrastructures supporting biodiversity and ecosystem science (Image: Creative-B)

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