Research Infrastructures in Support of the Sustainable Development Goals
Facilities, equipment, instruments, repositories, collections, and archives – researchers at Lund University have access to a vast array of Swedish, European, and global research infrastructures. Thus, there exist huge opportunities to advance knowledge, foster innovation, and initiate collaboration for sustainability.
Lund University is a host, coordinator, and collaborator to many different research infrastructures, most notably, MAX IV and ESS. While these are noteworthy, and a source of pride, there are 230+ infrastructures registered in the LU Research Portal. Research infrastructures take the form of equipment, services, or collections which support researchers to take advanced measurements, benefit from visualisation services, or access global data repositories. During a workshop on 30 March 2022, participants learned of various infrastructures that are available to researchers at Lund University. Invited speakers presented these infrastructures and showcased research examples to inspire their use in relation to our climate, air, ecosystems, biodiversity, and health.
The hybrid workshop is one of a series of workshops, arranged by the Strategic Research Areas (SRAs) and Sustainability Forum at Lund University, aimed at creating a venue to share experiences, discuss collaboration, and foster deeper reflection on sustainability.
The Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure (ACTRIS) is a pan-European research infrastructure, which provides data on short-lived atmospheric constituents. Such data improves the ability of models to predict severe weather, poor air quality, and climate change. ACTRIS operates observation platforms using in situ and remote sensing measurement techniques at fixed and mobile sites throughout Europe and additional global locations of relevance.
The Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) is a pan-European research infrastructure. Instead of short-lived atmospheric constituent data provided by ACTRIS, ICOS provides data on long-lived greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, as well as the exchange of carbon – known as a carbon flux – between the atmosphere, land, and oceans. ICOS operates more than 140 measurement stations across 14 European countries, and provides a data portal, tools, and other services.
Whereas ACTRIS and ICOS produce data, the Swedish Biodiversity Data Infrastructure (SBDI) aggregates existing biodiversity data from multiple Swedish, European, and global sources. Data includes sequence-based observations, museum specimens, marine data, archeological-biodiversity data, and environmental monitoring data. A digital platform provides access to data, tools, and other services. SBDI hosts various courses and training to use the data, which often requires R or Python to process, as well as a dedicated support centre to answer questions.
InfraVis is a new national infrastructure as of 2021, with funding from the Swedish Research Council. This infrastructure is coordinated by Chalmers University, with the aim to enable scientific discovery through the application of advanced visualisation and data analysis techniques. Lund University is one of the nine Swedish universities providing its competencies across the LU Humanities Lab, LU Virtual Reality Lab, LU Bioimaging Centre, LUNARC, CIPA, and AI Lund. While InfraVis is still being developed, participants saw the huge potential of this infrastructure across disciplines, with pilot projects being solicited at present.
MAX IV Laboratory
The MAX IV Laboratory seeks to make the invisible visible, by using X-rays to do advanced microscopy and spectroscopy. The X-rays produced at MAXIV are the highest-quality available to scientists anywhere in the world. X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, with a shorter wavelength than visible light. Various techniques exist using absorption, scattering, or diffraction of these rays when they pass through substances in the experimental space. And, there are endless applications, for example, in biology, physics, chemistry, as well as engineering, pharmacology, and environmental science. If interested, one must submit a proposal in order to become a user, with calls for proposals on a recurring basis.
Improving Awareness, Use, and Impact
A fundamental feature of many of the infrastructures presented is that they are openly available for all researchers. Thus, these infrastructures support open science and open data. Online data repositories, for example, the ICOS Carbon Portal or the SBDI Platform, are available to all researchers. Likewise, any researcher can use equipment and other instruments, like MAX IV, often by application or collaboration with the infrastructure coordinator. However, various recommendations were made by participants to improve awareness, use, and impact of these infrastructures for sustainability.
Infrastructures may do more to support potential and existing users of their resources. Among potential users, seemingly, there is little awareness of the available infrastructures and their research applications, especially among early career researchers. Thus, infrastructure coordinators must improve the visibility of their resources, and inspire users to see their utility. To do so, participants suggested that coordinators may improve the systems supporting communication, access, and coordination associated with their infrastructures. For example, infrastructures may seek to integrate data repositories or portals to reduce the number of unique access points and user accounts required. Additionally, greater coordination is needed. For example, one application could provide access to multiple or complementary infrastructures, such as between beamlines – the experimental space, equipment, and meeting place – at MAX IV.
Users may leverage research infrastructures to a greater extent in order to enhance their scientific contribution and societal impact. While infrastructures seek to improve their communication, taking advantage of these resources requires some effort and initiative by users. Increasingly, such initiatives are emerging among researchers from disciplines not traditionally associated with such equipment. For example, archeologists and art historians are able to use research infrastructures to learn about ancient building methods or painting techniques. Not only are diverse disciplines able to use these infrastructures, but they also invite multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborations.
Data management, data hosting, data archiving – issues pertaining to data were discussed relevant for both infrastructures and users. Several infrastructures are using the FAIR Principles for Scientific Data Management and Stewardship – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. Such guiding principles seek to address many of the data challenges currently facing infrastructures and their users, for example, improper metadata, misuse, misrepresentation, and longevity. With shared challenges, there is potential for Lund University to provide the space for learning and development among research infrastructures, users, and society.
This workshop was an initiative by the Strategic Research Areas (SRAs) and Sustainability Forum at Lund University, co-organised by MERGE and BECC.
Material from Future-oriented methodologies workshops
Outcomes from the workshops, e.g. Power Point presentations, summaries and other material, is available in LU Box.
Ways to participate in ongoing dialogues, publish articles and other opportunities related to the Strategic Research Areas or sustainable development.