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Brazil and EU team up to tackle biodiversity loss

Jacaranda rugosa A.H. Gentry (family: Bignoniaceae) is an endangered species of plant endemic to Brazil. Image courtesy CRIA, Brazil.

2020 is an important horizon for achieving international biodiversity targets. The goal of the European Union is to "halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020 and restore them insofar as possible, stepping up the EU's contribution to averting global biodiversity loss".

Today, e-infrastructures have become an essential foundation of all research and innovation. They enable close collaboration between researchers all over the world and provide access to unprecedented volumes of scientific information. Horizon 2020, the European Commission's next funding cycle, is a goal-line for making every researcher digital through the development and wider use of e-infrastructures across a broader spectrum of disciplines. A key objective is to take on the grand societal challenges of the 21st century, including the pressing need to address the complex challenges surrounding biodiversity loss.

The EUBrazilOpenBio project marks an important step towards understanding how to address biodiversity challenges more effectively by creating a joint data and cloud infrastructure for Brazil and Europe. The focus has been on sharing smarter approaches across national boundaries by leveraging achievements, components, and infrastructures developed in other projects. By promoting the concept of open access in all its core aspects, EUBrazilOpenBio has been able to demonstrate the benefits of small-scale funding and ensure that both Brazil and Europe capitalize fully on earlier investments.

"One of the most important legacies of EUBrazilOpenBio has been the development of easy-to-use technologies for different purposes to support international co-operation," says Wouter Los, coordinator of the LifeWatch project. "EUBrazilOpenBio has paved the ground for bringing together different communities with technological and sociological processes." Los adds: "It is an example for scaling up future initiatives in support of biodiversity systems research in co-operation with related initiatives. Scaling up with new, sustained co-operation models for distributed initiatives is crucial to enter a new research era, as well as to foster further developments with public and private partners."

In order to define what these future directions might look like, EUBrazilOpenBio and select experts have produced a joint action plan, titled 'A vision to boost co-operation between Brazil and Europe, strengthening links with research and business communities'. The idea is to drive forward new multi-disciplinary approaches to biodiversity, including internationally recognized post-graduate qualifications and joint facilities. The plan also identifies opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, including the creation of value-add services around open data.

The ultimate goal is to demonstrate that new and creative approaches to scientific discovery will be made possible by mastering the main technical and data-related challenges that lie ahead. Brazil and Europe have much to contribute to the creation of better services for researchers at all levels. By embracing the diversity of talent that exists in informatics, as well as all other fields, future international co-operation can help make collaborative research more efficient, more open, and multidisciplinary.

Read more: What's in a name - the battle to save Brazil's biodiversity

- Stephanie Parker, Trust-IT Services Ltd.

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