UK Biodiversity Science

The website of the UK Biodiversity Science Committee for UK biodiversity scientists

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Among the first tasks of the UK BSC is to engage with the UK science community to advance the promotion of biodiversity science as a contribution to both national and international science programmes. We will also scrutinise the biodiversity science content of the emerging Research Framework “Future Earth – Research for Global Sustainability”, as individual Global Environmental Change (GEC) Programmes such as DIVERSITAS and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) are amalgamated into Future Earth, a ten-year ICSU (the International Council for Science) initiative that aims to bring together research to understand global environmental change and sustainability.

Text of article that appeared in the  Bulletin of the British Ecological Society in December 2013

UK Biodiversity Science Committee – whatever for?

Although the UK has an incredibly strong and vibrant community doing the science that underpins global environmental sustainability – biodiversity science – it has been perceived that our voice was not heard as loudly as it should be in international initiatives such as DIVERSITAS. In late 2011 the BES hosted a town hall meeting at the Society of Biology to discuss whether or not the UK needed a national committee in the DIVERSITAS framework (http://www.diversitas-international.org/). The UK had long been represented in DIVERSITAS by individual scientists, including Professor Georgina Mace who is the chair of the DIVERSITAS Science Committee. The consensus of the meeting was to constitute a UK DIVERSITAS Committee, whose role would be to help the UK community have a more prominent international profile. Applications were invited, and 15 members were elected from 51 applications, representing a broad cross-section of biodiversity scientists in the UK. The aim was to have a group that was small enough to work well, but large enough to be diverse – not an easy task! The UK Biodiversity Science Committee (UK BSC) was therefore established in summer 2012 to represent the UK biodiversity science community and to serve as a constituted advisory committee for The Royal Society Global Environmental Research Committee (GERC, http://royalsociety.org/about-us/governance/committees/gerc/). The two previous DIVERSITAS representatives on GERC will be substituted by a representative of UK BSC (normally the Chairperson). Individual members will serve 3 year terms, and new members will be selected through an application and election process that will attempt to maintain the diversity of the Committee. The UK BSC met for the first time in September 2012, and will meet twice a year in person at the Royal Society, but more often virtually.

Biodiversity science almost defies definition – but in discussing how the UK BSC could help UK scientists we felt we needed to be as inclusive as possible. So for us, biodiversity science is that needed to support the CBD vision of "Living in Harmony with Nature" where "By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy plant and delivering benefits essential for all people.", and the mission of the new CBD strategic plan to "take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020 ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet's variety of life, and contributing to human well-being, and poverty eradication”. The science underpinning these ambitious goals will i) be integrative and link biological, ecological, and social disciplines;  ii) take place at local to global scales, and between scales, iii) consider diversity at all levels of biological organisation from genes to species, landscapes and biomes, and iv) involve observations and experiments, as well as modelling and prediction. We hope the work of the UK BSC can help to bring the strength of integrative and insightful science done by UK biodiversity scientists together to make an international impact.

Among the first tasks of the UK BSC is to engage with the UK science community to advance the promotion of biodiversity science as a contribution to both national and international science programmes. We will also scrutinise the biodiversity science content of the emerging Research Framework “Future Earth – Research for Global Sustainability”, as individual Global Environmental Change (GEC) Programmes such as DIVERSITAS and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) are amalgamated into Future Earth (http://www.icsu.org/future-earth), a ten-year ICSU (the International Council for Science) initiative that aims to bring together research to understand global environmental change and sustainability. These are challenging tasks, and we are only finding our feet and beginning to get to work. Input from the community is crucial to the success of the endeavour to make us more than the sum of our parts – so please get in touch!

We will be establishing a website (http://www.ukbsc.info) in addition to our presence as part of the Royal Society (http://royalsociety.org/about-us/governance/committees/ukbsc/) – where we will post news of funding opportunities and meetings; suggestions for additional content and functionality welcome. Various members of the Committee tweet as Biodiversity Science (@BiodivSci), most recently from INTECOL in London and the BiodiversityKnowledge conference in Berlin. Follow us and join in!

Sandy Knapp, UK BSC chairperson

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith