Request > Biodiversity and pandemics

Building on existing relevant work on research agendas and knowledge gap analysis, identifying interdisciplinary research and action priorities, that contribute to a strategic research agenda on biodiversity and pandemics addressing the critical interlinkages between relevant sectors needed to make future actions more effective.

Summary

 

Type of request: Knowledge Synthesis

This request was identified from a workshop co-organised by Eklipse and the EC- Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity (EC-KCBD) that brought representatives from a range of European Commission services together with high-level scientists to identify challenges and evidence needs related to the links between Biodiversity and human health, including zoonotic and infectious diseases.  This request aims to support the development of a strategic research agenda on biodiversity and pandemics, jointly with relevant agencies and initiatives, and aligned with relevant sectoral policy agendas.

Expert Working Group
  • Julie Teresa Shapiro (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel), Co-chair
  • Adam Izdebski (Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Germany), Co-chair
  • Giuseppe Cotturone (AUSL MODENA, Italy), Deputy
  • Norbert Tchouaffe Tchiadje (Pan-African Institute for Development, African Academy of sciences and University of Dschang, Cameroon), Deputy
  • Elmoubashar Abd Farag (Ministry of public health, Qatar)
  • Alexandre Caron ( CIRAD, France)
  • Alec Christie (Downing College, Cambridge, Biosecurity Research Initiative, St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, and Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge)
  • Andrew Cunningham (Zoological Society of London, England)
  • Miguel Fernandez (German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Germany)
  • Soushieta Jagadesh (ETH Zürich, Switzerland)
  • Claire Lajaunie (Inserm, France)
  • Hatice Mahur Turan (TUBITAK – The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey)
  • Kate Wall (International Fund for Animal Welfare, USA)
  • ( Marion Koopmans (Erasmus Medical Centre, Netherlands) – To be confirmed )
Methods Expert Group (MEG)
  • Nils Bunnefeld (University of Stirling, UK)
  • Alister Scott (University of Northumbria, UK)
Knowledge Coordination Body (KCB) focal points:
  • Serge Morand (CNRS – CIRAD – Faculty of Veterinary Technology, Kasetsart University, Bangkok)
  • Carla Washbourne (University College London, UK)
  • Ana Lillebo (University of Aveiro (CESAM), Portugal)
  • Ute Jacob (Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity, University of Oldenburg (HIFMB, Germany)
Eklipse Management Body (EMB) contact points
  • Karla E. Locher (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental research (UFZ), Germany)
  • Candice Pouget (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental research (UFZ), Germany)

Workshop report

Podcast

Focus group report

The COVID crisis has revealed how fragile and vulnerable our societies are to pandemics and how hectic political and policy responses become when faced with such an emergency. The pandemic did not come as a surprise to the scientific community, who has long identified the potential risk of zoonoses linked to unprecedented land degradation, unleashed consumption of natural resources and acceleration of biodiversity loss. This pandemic revealed the science-policy challenges to address before a new crisis emerges. Scientists are pulling knowledge together, but these initiatives need to ensure policy relevance and appropriate uptake of knowledge to be effective.

To support the identification of knowledge needs related to managing the links between biodiversity and human health, including zoonotic and infectious diseases, Eklipse organised together with the EC- Knowledge Center for Biodiversity. This workshop brought together invited participants, including representatives from a range of European Commission services, together with key experts (Please consult the workshop´s report above). A main request was identified from the workshop, highlighting the need to develop a strategic research agenda on Biodiversity and pandemics, jointly with all relevant agencies, and aligned with relevant sectoral policy agendas.

To move forward with this request and as a next step, Eklipse started a scoping process to explore and gather all relevant knowledge and knowledge holders to avoid duplication of ongoing efforts and ensure the outputs are jointly and timely developed.

 

Policy relevance and timeliness of the request

The scientific community has long identified the potential risk of zoonoses linked to unprecedented land degradation, unleashed consumption of natural resources and acceleration of biodiversity loss. However, the actual emergence of COVID-19 has highlighted gaps in our knowledge and our ability to put this knowledge into practice through policy-making. Therefore, generating and synthesising knowledge to fill these gaps while also ensuring the uptake of knowledge into decision-making and implementation should become a high priority.

The request Biodiversity and Pandemics focuses on how to improve our understanding and application of the science of pandemics to optimise coordination and coherence across policy sectors, building better resilience and response strategies (proactive and reactive approaches) in the context of the interface between Biodiversity and Pandemics. Moreover, the creation of a cross-sectoral consortium of requesters working with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (EC-DG RTD), co-developing the knowledge needs and expecting the knowledge synthesis will ensure that the produced evidence will be jointly and timely taken up by policy.

Also, as a follow-up to the workshop in May 2021 and based on the discussion and the identified policy needs, EC-DG RTD requested Eklipse to contribute to the drafting of the topic “Prevention of zoonotic emerging diseases & biodiversity” for the next Horizon Europe work programme 2023-2024. Eklipse Scoping Group on “Biodiversity and Pandemics” and four out of the nine relevant experts contacted by Eklipse provided their contributions to the document.

More information about the Eklipse criteria for processing a request can be found in the Document of Work (DoW) above.

Timeline

Start of the process: 02/2021

End of Call for Knowledge (CfK): 10/12/2021

End of the Call for experts (CfE n°11/2022):  22/06/22

Scoping phase

The scoping phase is the second step within the Eklipse process. It aims to refine the question, identify how Eklipse could provide an added value by being involved, seek knowledge and expertise on the refined question via an open Call for Knowledge (CfK), and provide suggestions regarding methods and resources needed to answer the request. For more precision, please consult Table 2 on the DoW above.

During the scoping phase, diverse activities were developed in order to identify the specific topics and their policy relevance. First, a workshop on “Biodiversity in postcovid crosssectoral challenges” was organised by Eklipse together with the EC Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity (KCBD). The workshop aimed to explore these needs related to Biodiversity and pandemics and to answer the questions:

  • How could we better address the drivers of such pandemics?
  • How can we also better prepare in case this happens again?
  • What knowledge and evidence do we need to support EU policies, rendering them coherent and effective across sectors to best tackle the interlinkages between biodiversity, human health and our economies?

The workshop objectives were to 1) clarify the interlinkages between  different sectors, biodiversity and health, 2) explore how crosssectoral approaches/actions can help prevent pandemics (root causes) and be better prepared
when they occur, 3) identify knowledge needs to support these crosssectoral approaches/actions.

From the workshop, three potential requests were identified:

1. Developing a strategic research agenda on Biodiversity and pandemics, jointly with all relevant agencies and aligned with relevant sectoral policy agendas.

2. Better understanding of EU policies generally in the emergence and spread of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) in third countries.

3. Identification and prioritisation of monitored ecosystems/biodiversity/areas or methodologies to improve the surveillance systems for the prevention of zoonotic emerging diseases in order to render them more resilient and sustainable inspired by past/best initiatives (EFSA, PREZODE, HERA, OHHLEP).

After that, a Call for Knowledge (CfK) was released to identify research gaps and policy needs. From the CfK, a total of 11 responses were collected with a wide variety of material, e.g. reports, scientific and grey literature, information about projects, as well as expert knowledge.

The Document of Work (DoW) was finalised and described the results of the scoping activities and the background of the request and is the basis for the call for experts.

Answering the request

Selection of an Expert Working Group

To answer this request, Eklipse sent out a Call for Expertise (CfE) and received 21 applications, from which 15 experts were selected in June 2022. These experts covered a broad range of expertise, gender and geographical (18 countries) representation to form the Eklipse Expert Working Group (EWG). One expert dropped out in the beginning due to unavailability.

 

Methods Protocol

The next step for the EWG is to develop a methodological protocol based on the DoW, including the scientific aspect of a thorough literature search and possible appraisal.