Biodiversity and ecosystems: launch of LifeWatch, the new European Research Infrastructure
Biodiversity and ecosystems are the fields of research of LifeWatch, the structure to which the European Commission has recently granted the legal status of European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC): a measure aimed at providing administrative advantages enjoyed by international organizations and at supporting the implementation of the infrastructure project.
The Consortium, based in Seville, involves Italy together with Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. In particular, the project aims to promote the advancement of scientific and technological research in the fields of nature and the environment, providing access ‒ through an e-infrastructure ‒ to large sets of data, services and tools enabling the creation of virtual laboratories and decision-support applications. Thanks to these virtual research environments, specific issues related to biodiversity and ecosystem research and preservation will be addressed through integrated models. The end goal of the initiative is to provide tools to make a significant contribution to the major environmental challenges of our time, such as climate change.
The Research Infrastructure Consortium LifeWatch ‒ full name “e-Science and Technology European Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research” ‒ aims to promote environmental research with a new approach that offers its users:
- a working environment with unlimited computational and cloud capacity;
- Transparency of the research process at all stages, from data collection and interoperability to the interpretation of the results;
- Generic applications for multidisciplinary research and the development of the “trading zones” between them.
The first step in the creation of the Research Infrastructure dates back to 2011, when representatives of organizations based in Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in the setting up of the Research Infrastructure. Spain took the role of project leader in the belief that LifeWatch could play a crucial role in preserving biodiversity and helping to consolidate a broad research network within the European Union.
LifeWatch has received 5 million euro in funding from the European Commission to support the Preparatory Phase of setting up of this infrastructure through the Seventh Framework Programme, the EU research and innovation funding Programme for the period 2007-2013.
LifeWatch ERIC is the 14th European Research Infrastructure Consortium established, and the fourth in the environment sciences area after Euro-Argo ERIC, a European infrastructure aimed at examining the role of oceans in the global climate system; ICOS ERIC, Integrated Carbon Observation System; and EMSO ERIC, European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and Water Column Observatory, based in Rome.