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Structuring the biodiversity informatics community: the recent Horizons 2013 conference

September 16, 2013

In beautiful September weather, the European biodiversity informatics community, met in Rome for a three day conference to assess the state of the art and develop a strategy to engage constructively with Horizon 2020. The BIH 2013 was a significant step towards realising the Commission’s wish that consortia formation becomes more collaborative and less competitive.

BioFresh contributed to discussions in a number of ways: Aaike De Wever chaired a session titled “the who and the where”, each break Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber demonstrated our new information platform and Paul Jepson talked on BioFresh experiences with data mobilisation and presented a schematic to aid thinking on informatics futures.

Dr Schmidt-Kloiber demonstrating the BioFresh Platform at BIH2013

Dr Schmidt-Kloiber demonstrating the BioFresh Platform at BIH2013

The conference concluded by stating the goal of biodiversity informatics as “delivering predictive modelling for biodiversity”. It was agreed that the community must move beyond digitizing things and start asking specific and applied questions. In the shorter term, the conference agreed the need to improve clarity of vision with greater focus on end-goals, to develop  good, simple tools with syntactic operability, to build the identify of the biodiversity informatics community and to strengthen links. Summarised with the words: integration, co-operation, promotion.

The need to strengthen links referred to links with people, other disciplines and sectors as well as machines. Drawing on BioFresh experiences, we argued that data mobilisation must not be seen solely as a technological and resourcing challenge but also as a process with complex science sociology and cultural dimensions. We suggested a more personalised approach to building relations with data holders drawing on insights from fund-raising and lobbying colleagues. Paul Jepson also flagged how speakers were referring to policy in very general terms and commented that links in this area would be enhanced by engaging academics with disciplinary expertise in environmental governance, policy and politics. He also argued for a more expansive notion of informatics and one that more explicitly engaged with developments in automated sensing and mobile (citizen science) technologies. Click here to view our powerpoint presentation.

(c) P. Jepson Extended Vision of Biodiversity Informatics. Sept 2013

(c) P. Jepson Extended Vision of Biodiversity Informatics. Sept 2013

The conference organisers, Dave Roberts and Alex Hardisty have set up a mail list for the their white paper on biodiversity informatics published earlier this year which interested parties can ask to join. In addition that individuals can register their research group on the H2020 webpage if they are interested in becoming involved in consortia responding to future EU research and networking calls. A fuller summary of the conference will be published on this site in due course.

Here are some key papers and reports

Hardisty, A., Roberts, D. & The Biodiversity Informatics Community. (2013). A decadal view of biodiversity informatics: challenges and priorities. BMC Ecology 13, 16

Hobern, D., Apostolico, A., Arnaud, E., Bello, J. C., Canhos, D., Dubois, G., Field, D., García, E. A., Hardisty, A., et al. (2013). Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook: Delivering Biodiversity Knowledge in the Information Age. GBIF Secretariat.

European Commission. (2013). Towards a Roadmap for Biodiversity and Ecosystem research in Europe. Workshop, Brussels.

Hardisty, A. (2012). Comparison of Technical Basis of Biodiversity e-Infrastructures. , Coordination of Research e-Infrastructures Activities Toward an International Virtual Environment for Biodiversity. Cardiff University.

Purves, D., Scharlemann, J. P. W., Harfoot, M., Newbold, T., Tittensor, D. P., Hutton, J. & Emmott, S. (2013). Ecosystems: Time to model all life on Earth. Nature 493, 295–297. doi:10.1038/493295a

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