The shape of the H2020 calls is gradually becoming clearer, but is both ambitious and complicated. By complicated, I mean that it seeks to achieve a level of integration that we have not seen before, specifically in the degree of coordination that (successful) proposals are intended to achieve.
What follows has been gleaned from various sources and has no authoritative weight. It is offered here to help to develop our collective thinking prior to the publication of the first calls, expected to be in mid December.
The perspective at the time of the BIH conference in Rome can be found here: http://h2020.myspecies.info/content/h2020-guesses
Critical to the formation of consortia will be the identification of suitable consortium leaders, with the vision, ability and time to manage a large diverse consortium. Note that traditionally EU projects are contracts and set out both their goals and mechanisms in the submitted project. There is an alternative. Both ViBRANT and BioVeL have laid out their goals but used an agile management approach that took advantage of the rapidly changing landscape to reach those goals. In this domain, and with the global nature of the science, it is unlikely that mechanisms defined years before will still be the best way to move forward.
The whole package is defined in three 'pillars':
- European Research Council (ERC)
- Future and Emerging Technologies (FET)
- Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)
- Research Infrastructures
- Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) - ICT, KETs, Space
- Access to Risk Finance
- Innovation in SMEs
- Health and Wellbeing
- Food security
- Climate action
Traditional funding mechanisms will apply (CP, CA, etc) but there is also an ERA-NET strand that will pool funds from national funders into a central pot that will be matched by the EU (co-funded) and managed by them. Only countries that have contributed to the pot will be eligible to bid for funds. The idea is to open national facilities to users from the European Research Area.
The ESFRI roadmap has been used, with other considerations, in structuring of the H2020 calls. The Assessment of ESFRI projects has recently been released. ESFRIs are divided into 6 categories: Social Sciences and Humanities; Environmental Sciences; Energy; Biological and Medical Sciences; Materials and Analytical Facilities; and Physical Sciences and Engineering. One of the H2020 objectives is to encourage cooperation between the ESFRI projects, presumably within these categories. For our purposes here, note that Environmental Sciences includes physical sciences, including atmospherics and plate tectonics as well as observational projects like ICOS and LifeWatch. Organism-based projects (ELIXIR, EMBRC, ANAEE and MIRRI) are classified as Biological and Medical Sciences.
The assessment then divided the ESFRI's into 3 groups. The first group is ready to be implemented by 2015, including EURO-ARGO and ELIXIR classified as biomedical. This first group are the focus for example cases in the call.
The science justification for projects is expected to link back to the Societal Challenges.
The FET programme will contain a proactive element to nurture emerging themes and communities. Under this banner the most likely thread for this community will be the topic of Global Science System within which we can work towards global ecological models, and all the things they're going to need. The focus of the consortium will be on community building towards an infrastructure on which SMEs can offer value-added services.
There is also a topic on Ecological technologies, but this seems to adapting technologies to minimise their ecological impact and maximise their sustainability, rather than technologies to take ecological measurements.
The Research Infrastructures, jointly developed by DG-RTD and DG-CNECT, seeks to (i) develop new world-class research infrastructures, (ii) integrate national research infrastructures and (3) develop e-infrastructures. The first of these is about the ESFRIs, including development of clusters of ESFRI projects. The third is where we would expect to see our best opportunity. I believe that this call is likely to close in early 2015, so first funding is likely to be autumn 2015. Proposals in this call are likely to have to follow the I3 model (with distinct strands for research, networking and access). Areas with potential are related to managing, preserving and computing with big research data; open data, particularly with the Research Data Alliance; Centres of Excellence for computing applications; Provision of core services across e-infrastructures (digital identifiers); and VREs.
Biodiversity and ecosystems are both covered explicitly under the 'climate action' challenge, which also includes environment, resource efficiency and raw materials. The overall objective of all these topic is sustainability so projects should have an impact that can be expressed in economic terms. There are elements on: protecting the environment, sustainably managing natural resources, water, biodiversity and ecosystems; developing comprehensive and sustained global environmental observation and information systems; and blue growth: unlocking the potential of the oceans.
The 'food security' thread is similarly about sustainability and also has a blue growth component. Its less clear how our community can drive projects in this area, but individual groups may fit well into other consortia.
Next steps for the Biodiversity Informatics Community
First we need to identify potential consortium leaders that have a strong vision of a consortium product. Some of the project ideas on the site are likely to form strong workpackages within bigger consortia. The vision has to encompass all three threads of research, networking and access and it has to lead to an identifiable product that can be justified against either the sustainability or economic criteria that are being applied.
Next we need to be open about the formation of consortia. Individual groups can, of course, be members of more than one consortium, but the idea of openness here is that each group can find its optimal point that advances both its own interests and the project's objectives.