Biodiversity Knowledge

I am currently in Paris, at a workshop organised under the auspices of the Biodiversity Knowledge project, a European Commission funded programme officially called “Creating a Network of Knowledge for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Europe”. This Network of Knowledge is designed to be open, transparent, flexible, equally accessible to all, independent, be scientifically- and evidence-based and have a robust structure, and the project is putting together the design for this new Network.

So far, the researchers have identified a mission statement, guiding principles and three case studies. The meeting in Paris was called to review progress with the Agriculture Case Study which aims to answer the question “which types of landscape/habitat management are effective at maintaining or restoring populations of natural pest control agents?”

As the discussion is about natural pest control, there are no representatives from the pesticide industry at the meeting. I see this as a shortcoming, because so much of the debate is about pesticide use and the impacts of chemical application on nature. However, within the budget constraints and the need to get feedback on on-going study results, this was an understandable decision.

The overall Biodiversity Knowledge initiative is supposed to be the Europe input into IPBES, as there is currently no adequate European coordination for biodiversity information. That is a worth-while objective, but main concern is that Biodiversity Knowledge is a time-bound 2010-2014 project, which was awarded to a consortium after the standard EC tendering process. It is not at all clear what will happen after 2014, and there is a real risk that the initiative will either simply come to an end, or a second phase will be developed and tendered. Under EC rules, it is not a given that the current consortium will be awarded the new tender, and therefore there is no guaranteed sustainability for the current study. Unless an institutional arrangement is developed in Europe where the coordination takes place, we may end up with several initiatives, duplication of work, and cost ineffectiveness.

Today, I learned about Systematic Reviews and synthesis of evidence. It all revolves around published literature, and does not include primary research, but the Systematic Reviews and the synthesis are two ways of presenting information so it can be used by decision makers.

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