ALTER-Net brings together leading institutes from 18 European countries. They share the goal of integrating their research capability to: assess changes in biodiversity, analyse the effect of those changes on ecosystem services and inform the public and policy makers about this at a European scale. Originally funded by the European Union’s Framework VI program to stimulate a collaborative approach, ALTER-Net is now operating independently. Since 2009 ALTER-Net's budget has been supported through financial pledges and in-kind contributions from our partners across Europe. Without this support, ALTER-Net would no longer be here. Thank you all!
ALTER-Net's objectives are listed below, along with a brief history. To learn more about our current activites see What we do...
Map correct as at July 2016
ALTER-Net's main objective is to develop lasting integration amongst its partner institutes, and others, all of whom are involved in biodiversity research, monitoring and/or communication. ALTER-Net is building upon a number of activities developed during the first (EU-funded phase), including:
- Identification of common research priorities and development of a common research programme
- Further development of the LTER-Europe network of Long-Term Ecosystem Research sites (LTER) and Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research platforms (LTSER); ALTER-Net was instrumental in developing this major European research infrastructure
- The ALTER-Net Summer School, which has been providing training for young researchers in inter-disciplinary approaches to biodiversity and ecosystems research since 2006
- Establishment of a vibrant interdiscplinary research community, which ALTER-Net has championed and nurtured, and actively supports through topical workshops
- Communication and knowledge transfer at interfaces such as scientist-to-scientist, scientist-to-policymaker and with the general public
- Supporting the EU LifeWatch project (developing the infrastructure for sharing biodiversity data), of which ALTER-Net is a founder member
- Development of a common data sharing policy.
ALTER-Net began life in 2004 as an EU Network of Excellence (Project no. GOCE-CT-2003-505298, Framework Programme 6). This phase (we call it ALTER-Net I) ran until March 2009, and was coordinated by Terry Parr (NERC CEH, UK). The project consisted of a series of linked Work Packages (WP). Six Work Packages dealt with the integration objectives, whilst a further six covered the joint programme of research. These Work Packages interacted and supported one another, so that the research WPs, in identifying gaps in knowledge, tools, etc., informed the integration WPs, which aimed to develop the necessary tools and frameworks for integration.
ALTER-Net actively promoted interdisciplinary biodiversity and ecosystems research. We launched our annual Summer School in this period, and also developed the pan-European LTER-Europe network of long-term research and observation sites.
A further two WPs were specifically tasked with the 'spread of excellence'. One WP addressed communication and dissemination, and focussed on communication of biodiversity research to the wider community, including other researchers, the media and policymakers. The second dealt with training and mobility issues, so that the necessary skills base for biodiversity research and communication could be strengthened.Final report of ALTER-Net Phase I...
After the EU grant ceased in 2009, ALTER-Net relied on financial support from its members. From 2009 until 2011, we also benefited from generous support from the Norwegian Government, which helped to fund the secretariat at NINA (Jiska van Dijk headed the secretariat). In this period of ALTER-Net, we established the ALTER-Net Council and Management Board. Terry Parr remained at the helm, chairing the Council until 2011, before handing over to Eeva Furman of SYKE, Finland. The Secretariat also moved to SYKE at this time. The Management Board was chaired first by Daniel Terrason (CEMAGREF, France), then by Leon Braat (Alterra, Netherlands).
Twenty-two of ALTER-Net's original partners continued in the network. Membership grew to 27 partner institutes in 18 countries. ALTER-Net helped to develop several project consortia which secured European Union FP7 research funds. We continued to run our Summer School in Peyresq, France and also organised several important events (see Outputs for details). ALTER-Net became active in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services, and showed its strong support for BiodiversityKnowledge, a network of knowledge aiming to bridge the gap between science and policy. In addition, through its Science-Policy Interface activities, ALTER-Net has established excellent working relations with the European Commission DG Environment and other policy makers. A conference organized by ALTER-Net with DG Environment in April 2013 was instrumental in this.
April 2014 marked ALTER-Net's 10th birthday and the start of what we are calling Phase III of the network. Maurice Hoffmann (INBO, Belgium) takes over as Chair of the Network Council, whilst Allan Watt (NERC CEH, UK) and Jiska van Dijk (NINA, Norway), co-chair the Management Board. Phase III sees a major revision of our focus areas, although several key activities of ALTER-Net, such as support for long-term research infrastructures, promotion of interdisciplinary research and training via our Summer School, will continue. A major activity is the organisation of our second conference in Ghent, on Nature-Based Solutions.
See also: What we do