The African Biodiversity Challenge: expressions of interest reveal motivated mobilisers!
24 May 2017
The African Biodiversity Challenge is off with a bang, with 44 expressions of interest received from 13 countries. This has exceeded our expectations and represents a 15% return rate on the invitations across countries and institutions. The competition is distinct from other funding mechanisms because prize money is awarded at the end of the project with project teams supporting the data mobilisation activities independently. The reason for this is due to our long-term goal to support self-sustaining biodiversity informatics networks that are interdependent, cooperative and functional. The high number of applications received thus reflects the strong desire for conducting biodiversity informatics work despite capacity and logistical barriers.
The applications were generally of very high-quality, with applicants understanding the aims of the competition, identifying critical target datasets for mobilisation and pinpointing specific national policies in which the data could be mainstreamed. Many of the projects were hugely innovative and interdisciplinary, ranging from informing zoonotic disease transmission policy from wildlife faecal samples to using Lepidoptera data as indicator species for conservation and agriculture. This is hugely encouraging for biodiversity conservation on the continent.
While we would like to support all applicants, this inaugural launch of the project seeks to support project teams from three countries. The Steering Committee approved 26 applications to proceed to the second round. On the 8th of May, the approved applicants from 10 countries were invited to submit full proposals. Given the project’s focus on network building, we requested that the applicants work together to combine elements of their individual applications into a unified full proposal (but also provided the option to provide full proposals independently). Larger consortia (comprised of diverse partners) are more likely to perform better in the competition due to the increased likelihood of mobilising more policy-relevant data. Again, initial responses from the countries have been encouraging, with several confirming their intention to form consortia and submit a joint proposal. We look forward to finalising the three countries to participate in the ABC competition.