Overview of international projects and networks
The RMCA has long been associated with several international organizations and participates in numerous national and international scientific research projects.
1. Scientific networks
- CETAF (Consortium of European Taxonomical Facilities)
The Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (www.cetaf.org) is a network of scientific institutions in Europe that promotes training, research and the understanding of systematic biology and palaeobiology. CETAF has initiated many European projects in the field, such as SYNTHESYS and EDIT.
- Taxonomical Database Working Group (TDWG)
TDWG (www.tdwg.org),Taxonomical Database Working Group, collaborates closely with GBIF. Created in 1986 to promote international collaboration in the field of biological databases, TDWG has become an official source for standards regarding biodiversity information exchange and the associated software.
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, www.gbif.org), an initiative of the OECD, has as primary goal of making biodiversity information freely available to all. Numerous biodiversity data providers from all over the world are connected to GBIF, enabling access to millions of records (specimens and observations). Go to www.gbif.org.
Belgium has been a GBIF voting member since February 2001, via an initiative of the Belgian Science Policy Office.
- Cooperative Research on East African Territorial Integration within Globalization (CREATING)
This scientific collaboration network among Central and East African countries aims to establish infrastructure for human sciences research. It offers fieldwork training possibilities in various fields, as well as funding to continue a project in the context of theses that have already been started. The RMCA participates in the running of this network and trains students in social anthropology and history fieldwork.
- European Network of Excellence for Ocean Ecosystems Analysis (EUR-OCEANS)
This network connects over 60 research institutes and universities across 25 countries. The RMCA welcomes, among others, doctoral students in the fields of geochemistry and isotopic geology, which the project particularly seeks to study climate and biological changes in ocean ecosystems. Moreover, the RMCA participates in network projects concerning the southern ocean and upwelling current zones typical of African coasts where essential organic marine productivity is concentrated
- Mande Studies Associations (Mansa)
This network of social science researchers works in the ‘Manden’ cultural area, whose members are the Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. The Mansa network organizes international conferences and acts as an interface between Western and African research centres. Its contribution ranges from the academic field to numerous social and policy aspects connected with the movement of researchers as well as immigration law, basic rights, and freedom of movement and speech.
- International Network of Ethnography Museums (INEM)
Ten of the largest European ethnography museums have joined forces to manage scientific workshops on societal issues regarding the perception of people on other continents. Two major themes, modernity and first meetings, will be addressed through exhibitions, colloquia, shows and publications.
- Congo Network
The Congo Network-project, financially supported by Belspo, is an initiative of the Consortium CONGO 2010 to reinforce the biodiversity research capacity in the Congo Basin by, amongst others, developing national and international networking activities and by collecting and publishing relevant information. Project period: 2010-2012.
- Congo Biodiversity Initiative (CBI)
The Congo Biodiversity Initiative (CBI) website gives an overview of projects and initiatives targeting Congo basin diversity . The CBI is an open knowledge platform that provides a venue to interested organizations and individual researchers , giving them an easy-to-use, fast, and efficient tool for discussing and streamlining their activities.. The CBI actively works to stimulate new collaborations and synergies. Regular newsletters are sent to the growing CBI community with updates and news of relevant activities. The CBI is an initiative of the Consortium CONGO 2010.
2. Participation in international projects
- The Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) dimension of the European Research Area (ERA)
The ERA-ARD project is organised within the frame of the ERA-NET Programme of the European Commission (2005-2009).
This project seeks to improve synergies between the European national ARD programmes, increase the effectiveness and efficiency of European research planning, funding and implementation to fight poverty and hunger and to support a more rapid and sustainable development in the poorest countries in the world.
ERA-ARD Infosys+ is the European Information System on Agricultural Research for Development.
This database aims to collect information on the European ARD Landscape through the support of a network of European partners and based on the contributions of its users.
- European Network for Biodiversity Information (ENBI)
The ENBI project (www.enbi.info) was launched in 2003 under the 5th European Framework Programme.
ENBI is the European contribution to GBIF. ENBI has enhanced communication and cooperation between GBIF-nodes, biodiversity institutes and relevant initiatives. The RMCA is involved in ENBI because, like most other natural science institutions in Europe and in the US, it holds vast collections originating from far away (mostly tropical) countries.
- Synthesis of Systematic Resources (SYNTHESYS)
SYNTHESYS’ goal (www.synthesys.info), is to enhance both physical and electronic access to the collections and scientific equipment of the 20 participating natural science museums and botanical gardens.
Every six months, researchers from many institutions (universities, public or private research centres) based in EU member states or associated states have the opportunity to apply for a grant for a short scientific visit to one of the 20 participating institutions.
See also: RMCA activities in Synthesys:
- European Distributed Institute for Taxonomy (EDIT)
EDIT (www.e-taxonomy.eu) is composed of 27 partners from prestigious institutions in Europe, North America and Russia. EDIT goal is to modernize taxonomic research and to reduce the fragmentation of which this discipline suffers by facilitating collaboration and integration between scientific institutions.
The project has started officially on March 1st, 2006 and the official launch has taken place in Paris on 28-29 June 2006.
- EDIT workpackage 4 (Sept. 2006) : European Network of Bioacoustic Collections for Taxonomy, Systematics and Conservation (pdf - 61 kb)
See also: RMCA's activities in EDIT : http://edit.africamuseum.be
- Paul Broca II
In the context of the NEST-PATHFINDER call for proposals under the 6th EU Framework Programme, a project called ‘The Evolution of Cerebral Asymmetry in Homo sapiens’ (acronym: PAUL BROCA II) (Proposal/Contract no.: 12880) will be financed beginning in January 2007
The Herpnet Network (www.herpnet.org) managed by the University of California, Berkeley, aims to make information about the world’s natural history herpetological collections accessible via Internet. To reach this objective the Herpnet Network is using software and standards recommended by GBIF and TDWG.
- UNESCO IGCP485 (International Geological Correlations Program)
"Cratons, metacratons and mobile belts: keys from the West African craton boundaries; Eburnian versus Pan-African signature, magmatic, tectonic and metallogenic implications".
This programme is led by the University Chouaib Doukkali of El Jadida (Morocco; N. Ennih) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (J.P. Liégeois). It concerns mainly the countries located on the northern boundary of the West African craton: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Mali.
- SABIN - CABIN
In 2007, the RMCA started the SABIN initiative (Sub-Saharan Africa Biodiversity Network). Its aim is the development, installation and maintenance of a network of databases on biodiversity, in cooperation with scientific institutions located in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2008, this initiative was made concrete with the launch of the CABIN project (Central African Biodiversity Information Network), which focuses on the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. CABIN is supported by the Belgian General Direction of Development Cooperation, and funded for a period of 5 years.
- STERNA (Semantic Web-based Thematic European Reference Network Application)
The RMCA is member of the STERNA project (www.sterna-net.eu) which began in 2008. As an eContentplus Best Practice Network, it intends to provide bird-related information in order to build a European Digital Library (EDL). Its vision is a virtual bridge between natural history and cultural domains via a ‘Use Case Scenario’ to provide information on ornithological publications (e.g. the catalogue of type specimens) and ethnographic objects (e.g. composed of feathers).
The system is based on using the RDF (Resource Description Framework) as data exchange standards.
The RMCA is the coordinator of the component ‘technology improvement, target user validation and evaluation of the STERNA approach’, and is thus involved in the project as a technical advisor owing to its expertise in biodiversity information standards.
- Biodiversity Heritage Library – Europe (BHL-EUROPE)
The purpose of this digital library is to gather all publications in the fields of taxonomy and biodiversity. Twenty-six European institutions will post online documents past and present, from the most common to the most rare. Thanks to its expertise in CIT (Communication and Information Technologies), the RMCA is responsible for this project’s technological implementation and content.
BHL portal: http://www.bhl-europe.eu/ - linked with Europeana (http://www.europeana.eu)
This project unites the laboratories of 300 internationally renowned researchers, including a team from the RMCA. It aims to coordinate world geochemical marine research to meet the major environmental challenges facing the world’s oceans in the 21st century. Scientists use chemical and isotopic elements in particular as tracers to quantify biological processes and physical characteristics of the oceans.
This project, launched as part of the International Year of Planet Earth, seeks to create a dynamic, digital geological map of the world, accessible online. The data will be available in several formats in order to disseminate global geological knowledge and increase their use. The RMCA has provided a specially adapted version of its geological maps of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi via a WMS server (WebMapService), the web standard for online maps. Using this ‘distributed’ system (spread across several different computers), the participants deliver different layers of their geological maps dynamically and in real time via a central portal.
- EU BON
On 1 December 2012, 30 research institutes from 15 European countries, Brazil, Israel and the Philippines and more than 30 associated partners launched the EU BON project - “Building the European Biodiversity Observation Network”. The aim of this EU-funded project is to set up a platform that will make biodiversity information accessible to scientists, policy makers and the public.
Global problems arising from environmental changes and biodiversity loss require internationally coordinated solutions. However, current biodiversity observation systems and environmental data are unbalanced in world coverage and not integrated. This limits data analyses and the implementation of environmental policies. The EU BON project aims at solving this problem by trying to integrate the biodiversity data across different spatial, temporal and societal scales.
- BOYEKOLI EBALE CONGO 2010 – Expedition on the Congo river
Boyekoli Ebale Congo means ‘Study of the Congo River’ in Lingala, and that is exactly what a multidisciplinary team of scientists from Congo, Belgium and some other European countries did when they set off on 30 April 2010, in an expedition to survey the biodiversity in and around the Congo River. This journey was put together by Congolese and Belgian scientists, and the experiences they shared have firmly reinforced the spirit and practice of cooperation between the two scientific communities as a result.
Participants of the RMCA were: Alexandre Smith, Els Cornelissen, Virgilio Massi, Tobias Musschoot, Emmanuel Vreven, Jos Snoeks, Pierre Denis-Plisnier, Jacky Maniacky, Birgit Ricquier, Camille Couralet, Kristien Opstaele (Communication), Hilde Keunen, (coordination). (see portraits).
- Centre de surveillance de la biodiversité (CSB)
To ensure the long-term surveillance and management of how the flora and fauna of the Congo river rainforest evolves, a Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité (CSB) was created on the campus of the University of Kisangani's Faculty of Sciences. (DR Congo)
In 2012 a team of dedicated scientists and technicians started working in a brand-new, 2,300m² building that has a library, computer infrastructure and an internet connection.. The centre will house biological collections from the Congo basin. The laboratories are equipped with standard scientific equipment and all the tools, materials, and expertise needed for fieldwork are available: traps, nets, camping gear, an all-terrain vehicle, four all-terrain motorcycles, nine outboard boats, seven dugouts, and a 34-metre whaleboat.
3. Collaborative projects in Belgium
- African Murids
Following a call for projects by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform (www.biodiversity.be), the RMCA, in partnership with the Royal Institute for Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the University of Antwerp, received funds to provide information to the GBIF portal about its African Murids collection.
In the framework of a call launched by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform , the RMCA in partnership with the Royal Institute for Natural Sciences and the University of Antwerp has received funds to provide information to the GBIF portal about its African Murids collection.
- Generalized Natural Sciences Online Spatial Information System (GNOSIS)
The GNOSIS project is carried out in the framework of the ‘Multi-annual Information Society Support Programme’ of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office. The project started in 2004. The RMCA Departments of African Zoology, Geology and Mineralogy participate in this project in partnership with the Royal Institute for Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI). At the technical level the project is coordinated and carried out by Geographic Information Management (GIM).
In 2007, a Joint Experimental Molecular Unit (JEMU) was founded as a collaborative project between the Royal Institute for Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, supported by Belgian Federal Science Policy.
A number of laboratory techniques and evaluating methods are currently available in order to address evolutionary, taxonomic and further questions that have arisen in the daily work of scientists in natural history collections. JEMU will assist researchers to carry out these types of projects
Read more: http://jemu.myspecies.info/