Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) Assessment of Research Quality

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1 Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) Assessment of Research Quality

2 Universiteit van Amsterdam Visiting address Spui 21 (Maagdenhuis) 1012 WX Amsterdam Postal address Postbus GG Amsterdam Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica (Faculty of Science) Visiting address Kruislaan SM Amsterdam Postal address Postbus GB Amsterdam Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics Visiting address Kruislaan SM Amsterdam Postal address Postbus GB Amsterdam Internet Colophon: Publication: Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics Assessment of Research Quality Produced: September 2006 Copyright: 2006 Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of IBED. 2

3 Table of contents Preface... 5 Common acronyms and terminology used throughout the self evaluation report Part A: Documentation regarding the level of the institute...9 A.1 Mission Statement A.2 Leadership A.2.1 Management of IBED A.2.2 Research themes, chairs and chair holders A.2.3 Steering mechanisms A.3 Strategy and policy A.3.1 Renewed focus of IBED research themes A.3.2 Strategic Research A.3.3 Research in Aquatic Ecosystems A.3.4 IBED s expertise in e-bioscience A.3.5 Further integration of research facilities A.3.6 BSc and MSc students A.3.7 National Research Schools A.4 Researchers and other personnel A.4.1 Human resources policy A.4.2 Research input A.5 Resources, funding and facilities A.5.1 Financial situation and policy A.5.2 Research facilities A.6 Processes in research, internal and external collaboration A.6.1 Processes in research A.6.2 Interdisciplinarity and programme consistency A.6.3 Supervision, output and quality control of projects A.6.4 Collaborations A.7 Academic reputation A.7.1 Bibliometric analysis of scientific results A.7.2 Previous peer reviews A.7.3 Rewards and prizes A.8 Internal evaluation A.9 External validation A.9.1 Validation of the institute s conduct and results A.9.2 Science for Society A.9.3 Outreach to the general public A.10 Overview of the results A.11 Analysis, perspectives and expectations for IBED

4 Part B: Documentation regarding the clusters and the research programmes B.1 Theme I: Biodiversity and Evolution...45 B.1.0 Short characterisation of the programme B.1.1 Leadership B.1.2 Strategy and policy B.1.3 Processes in research, internal and external collaboration B.1.4 Academic reputation B.1.5 Internal evaluation B.1.6 External validation B.1.7 Researchers and other personnel B.1.8 Resources, funding and facilities B.1.9 Overview of the results B.1.10 Analysis, perspectives and expectations for the research programme B.2 Theme II: Geo-ecology...69 B.2.0 Short characterisation of the programme B.2.1 Leadership B.2.2 Strategy and policy B.2.3 Processes in research, internal and external collaboration B.2.4 Academic reputation B.2.5 Internal evaluation B.2.6 External validation B.2.7 Researchers and other personnel B.2.8 Resources, funding and facilities B.2.9 Overview of the results B.2.10 Analysis, perspectives and expectations for the research programme B.3 Theme III: Community Dynamics...95 B.3.0 Short characterisation of the programme B.3.1 Leadership B.3.2 Strategy and policy B.3.3 Processes in research, internal and external collaboration B.3.4 Academic reputation B.3.5 Internal evaluation B.3.6 External validation B.3.7 Researchers and other personnel B.3.8 Resources, funding and facilities B.3.9 Overview of the results B.3.10 Analysis, perspectives and expectations for the research programme Appendix with output Theme I Theme II Theme III

5 Preface It is a pleasure to present this first self assessment of the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. The institute was founded at the start of the new millennium, in the year The past five years have seen a growth of activities and maturation of IBED, thanks to the shared enthusiasm of all our scientists and supportive staff, as well as the support from the Faculty of Science and the University. This report covers the period , and adheres to the Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP) of the Association of Universities of the Netherlands (VSNU). The first part (A) presents the institute as a whole with an overview of the organisation, leadership, strategy and policies, research budget and facilities, as well as a summary of the outcomes of the research efforts. The second part (B) includes a more detailed presentation of the research activities and results of the three thematic programmes of the institute. The information is organised at the theme level and where appropriate with more detailed information on the constituting research groups. Compliance with the prescribed Standard Evaluation Protocol was a challenge at some points, as not all aspects were directly applicable to IBED, and conversely, not all relevant aspects of IBED are covered by the protocol. We have taken the liberty to add elements if we felt they were relevant to the development of our institute. The preparation of this self evaluation report was also an interesting undertaking as it became clear how the new Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics - founded in 2000 as a merger of scientists from different disciplines, institutes and even faculties has developed in time. I believe that the institute is a success. It has developed a clear profile and has attained an important national and international position. There are considerable scientific results, both quantitatively and qualitatively speaking. We hope that the review committee will provide valuable advice for the further development of the IBED and its ambition to perform innovative research of the highest level. September 2006 Prof. Dr. Peter H. van Tienderen (IBED director) 5

6 Common acronyms and terminology used in the report UvA FNWI IBED AEE AMB AMC ASZ BSc BAC CBPG CWE CWI CYANOTOX EB ENBI EPS ES ESPM EU GBIF GIS GRID HIMS ICG ICT IVAM IvI KNAW LC-MS/MS MSc MAD MEERVOUD (NWO) METIS NIOO NIOZ NWO PB PERFORCE PIONIER (NWO) P&L PNIA RIKZ Universiteit van Amsterdam Faculty of Science of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics IBED Research Group of Aquatic Ecology and Ecotoxicology IBED Research Group of Aquatic Microbiology Amsterdam Medical Centre - UvA IBED Research Group of Animal Systematics and Zoogeography Bachelor of Science A search committee installed by the Dean of the Faculty in the process of installing full professors. IBED Research Group of Computational Biogeography and Physical Geography Centre for Wetland Ecology Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica the NWO institute for Mathematics International research project on toxic cyanobacteria IBED Research Group of Evolutionary Biology European Network of Biodiversity Information IBED Research Group of Experimental Plant Systematics IBED Research Group of Environmental Science IBED Research Group of Earth Surface Processes and Materials European Union Global Biodiversity Information Facility Geographical Information Systems A collection of connected computers working on a complex task or managing extensive data Van t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences Faculty of Science, UvA Inter-university Centre for Geo-ecology Research School Information and Communication Technology Centre for Environmental Studies Informatics Institute Faculty of Science, UvA Royal Netherlands Academy of Art and Sciences Liquid Chromatography with double Mass Spectrometry. Master of Science Micro Array Department Faculty of Science, UvA Grant to stimulate the appointment of women as Associate Professor University data management system to record all scientific input and output Netherlands Institute of Ecology Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. IBED Research Group of Population Biology EU funded project on PERFluorinated ORganic Chemicals in the European environment Grant to facilitate the appointment of excellent senior researchers to a Full Professorship. IBED Research Group of Paleoecology and Landscape Ecology Administrative system of the UvA National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management - RWS 6

7 RWS SAC SARA SCAPE SEE SENSE SEP SILS SMARTMIX STPM TALENT (NWO) TE TOPIC UD UHD UNEP-GEF Van der Leeuw chair (NWO) VENI (NWO) VOFF VSNU WAC ZMA Rijkswaterstaat Dutch government agency for water management International Scientific Advisory Committee of IBED Joint facility of cooperating Dutch universities on high performance computation International research project of Soil Conservation And Protection for Europe Seminars on Ecology and Evolution Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment Standard Evaluation Protocol of the VSNU Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences of the Faculty of Science, UvA Governmental funding of joint projects between scientific and market partners Study profile of Science, Technology and Public Management Former grant for PhD students to facilitate a foreign research visit of three to twelve months IBED Research Group of Theoretical Ecology International research project on toxic cyanobacteria Universitair Docent tenured scientific rank, comparable to assistant professor Universitair Hoofddocent tenured scientific rank, comparable to associate professor United Nations Environment Programme Global Environment Facility Grant that allows overlap between a retiring professor and a newly appointed professor, to promote continuity and innovation in research Personal research grant for innovative research by excellent young researchers who recently obtained a PhD degree. (max. 200 K, 3 years). Vereniging Onderzoek Flora en Fauna association of organizations that collect data on plant- and animal species in the Netherlands. Association of Universities of The Netherlands Internal Scientific Advisory Committee of IBED The Zoological Museum Amsterdam - Faculty of Science, UvA 7

8 8

9 Part A DOCUMENTATION REGARDING THE LEVEL OF THE INSTITUTE 9

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11 A.1 Mission statement The Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics is one of the ten research institutes of the Faculty of Science. It is also one of the larger institutes, together with the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) and the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS). The institute was conceived in 2000, in conjunction with a reorganisation of the University. At that time the Faculty of Science was established, the research institutes were created and their missions and tasks were defined. In addition, three educational institutes were founded that are responsible for planning and execution of the Faculty s undergraduate and graduate programmes in Exact Sciences, Informatics, and Life & Earth Sciences, respectively. IBED contributes to different BSc and MSc programmes, mainly to those in the Life & Earth Sciences. Thus, IBED scientific staff has two main tasks: doing research, the quality of which is the topic of the present assessment, and teaching, the assessment of which follows a separate procedure. IBED researchers came from the former faculties of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. Following the general definition of its mission, an internal structure with three research themes was created, although it was never the intention to erect strict boundaries between the themes. Unfortunately, it was not possible to find a single location for IBED, which hampered interactions between research groups housed at Science Park Amsterdam and the Roeter s Island complex. The mission At the broadest level, the mission of IBED is to increase our understanding of the diversity and dynamics of ecosystems from the level of molecules and genes to entire ecosystems. IBED research is primarily driven by scientific curiosity; our aim is to unravel how ecosystems function in their full complexity, and how they change due to natural processes and human interference. The focus in IBED lies on the study of two interlinked aspects: (i) how do organisms interact with one another and with their abiotic environment, and (ii) what are the dynamics that emerge from these interactions, both in space and in time. Background IBED was established by merging the ecologists of the former Faculty of Biology with the physical geographers from the former Faculty of Environmental Sciences and the environmental chemists of the former Faculty of Chemistry. These groups were essential to shape the multidisciplinary research needed to address the IBED mission. Each group had its own history and because of the housing at different locations, new internal collaborations took some time to develop. Progressively more initiatives of co-operations take advantage of the different disciplines present in IBED. This is needed as our view on the dynamics of our complex world has changed considerably during the last decades. We have become increasingly aware that natural systems can exhibit unpredictable behaviour in their dynamics, or possess multiple equilibrium states with potential regime shifts that cannot easily be reversed. The mutual relation between organisms and their abiotic environment are the fundamental drivers in the dynamics of natural systems. The spatial and temporal dynamics of natural systems can be understood properly only by studying the underlying interactions among the different components, dead or alive, and by analysing and modelling the system s spatial and temporal patterns indeed the core of IBED s research. The focus of IBED fits very well into contemporary research by tapping right into the potentials of the latest methodological developments in science. For instance, interactions between organisms and environment are being studied with unprecedented detail and accuracy using techniques developed in genomics and analytical chemistry. Likewise, ecosystems are being recognized as complex adaptive systems, the modelling of which requires advanced techniques and massive computing power. Moreover, analysis and visualisation of complex data can often only be done using computer networks. IBED is working hard to fully exploit these possibilities. This entails the creation of a flexible structure within IBED s research, in which boundaries between research groups, themes and disciplines weaken, thus taking advantage of the benefits of truly cross-disciplinary research. 11

12 There is another reason why research on biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics is so essential. People become more and more aware that human activities have a global and long lasting impact on our environment. It is today s tragedy that in spite of all our scientific knowledge we are still unable to achieve a sustainable use of our resources and environment. IBED wants to make a contribution to solving the problems the world is faced with, by conducting fundamental research in these areas as well as by international capacity building, educating students and providing them with the knowledge and skills to tackle the problems at hand. 12

13 A.2 Leadership A.2.1 Management of IBED The director of the institute (Prof. Jan Sevink, from and Prof. Peter H. van Tienderen from 2005 onwards) is given a wide-ranging mandate by the Dean of the Faculty of Science to run the institute. The director is responsible for the scientific programme and its quality, the contributions to the faculty s educational programme, and for human and financial resource management. The mandate thus includes the development of the scientific program and profile of the institute, the hiring of new personnel, the financial planning and control, and the decisions concerning investments in facilities and instrumentation. The actual financial and personnel management is delegated to the business manager (Mrs. drs. Jody dos Santos), and her management office. She is responsible for the daily administrative processes, financial and personnel, and the shared facilities of the institute. Together with the director she oversees the yearly budget development of the institute and works out the allocation of resources to the different research groups, facilities and labs. The business manager also controls the income and expenditure of the institute and makes assessments of the actual spending of research projects given the financial conditions set by the institute and/or granting bodies. In addition to the director and the institute manager, the IBED Management Team consists of the advisor for educational issues (Prof. André M. de Roos), and it is supported by a management assistant of the IBED Office (Mrs. Ada Hoogendorp). In matters concerning research priorities, mid-term policies and project applications that require substantial matching from the institute, the director is advised by the internal Scientific Advisory Committee (WAC). In the WAC the three IBED research themes are represented by a chairperson (the theme leader) and a vice-chair, to ensure efficient procedures. The director asks for the WAC s opinion on important developments concerning IBED research, but the WAC can also take the initiative to advise the director on any topic it considers important. Finally, an international scientific advisory committee (SAC) was installed in 2003 and visited the Institute in The members are Prof. M. Loreau (McGill University, Montreal, Canada), Prof. G.M. Hewitt (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK), Prof. J. Hill (University of Trier, Trier, Germany) and Prof. P. Baas (former Director of the National Herbarium Netherlands, Leiden, chairman). The committee visited the IBED in 2004, with the policies and priorities in the IBED multi-annual plan as 13

14 one of the main topics for discussion. Their advice was sent to the Dean, and implemented in the final plans. More details can be found in the section on External Validation (see paragraph A.9.1). A.2.2 Research themes, chairs and chair holders The research programme of the institute comprises three research themes. Each theme consists of different research groups, typically with a full professor and one or two tenured associate (UHD) or assistant (UD) professors (albeit with several exceptions), plus Post-docs and PhD students. In addition, there are several special chairs, usually scientists with an appointment elsewhere or paid by an external organization. Special chair holders do not have a research group and tenured staff, but contribute to IBED research by collaborating with other IBED members and by supervising PhD students. They often also participate in the teaching programme of the University. The three IBED research themes are: Theme I: Theme II: Theme III: Biodiversity and Evolution Geo-Ecology Community Dynamics Each theme is chaired by the theme leader, a professor of one of the research groups in the theme, assisted by a vice chair. Current theme leaders are Prof. Steph Menken, (I Biodiversity and Evolution), Prof. Willem Bouten (II Geo-Ecology) and Prof. Maurice Sabelis (III Community Dynamics). Vice chairs are Prof. Michael Veith, dr. Pim de Voogt, and Prof. Jef Huisman for themes I, II and III, respectively. The three themes function as clusters of expertise, with common interests in science, and shared facilities and approaches. The main goal of such a thematic organisation is to create sufficient critical mass in different research areas, to create synergy by complementary expertise, to promote internal collaboration within IBED and to have a structure in which opportunities for new research are identified and exploited and priorities can be set. Within each theme the constituting research groups have their own niche. In fact, the actual management and allocation of resources is done at the research group level for several reasons: Research groups have a manageable size for personnel and financial 14

15 management and, foremost, tenured full professors have been given the explicit responsibility for the scientific research in their field of expertise, and should therefore also be given the means to exercise this responsibility (see A.2.3). A further description of the three themes is presented in section A.3, and more detailed information is presented in the chapters B.1 to B.3. Together, the three themes adequately cover IBED s research mission, with a mix of empirical and experimental work and with expertise in biology, physical geography, chemistry and mathematical modelling. This makes IBED a truly multidisciplinary research institute, with a firm basis for fundamental science as well as applied research projects. A.2.3 Steering mechanisms Decision-making procedures and management style The Faculty made the directors of research institutes responsible for all scientific, personnel and financial operations of the institute. Science can only thrive if scientists are given enough freedom to develop and pursue their ideas, given the boundaries set by the IBED mission. Therefore, the director exerts this decisive power with self-imposed constraints. IBED scientists have great liberties in choosing their research topics. They are held responsible, obviously, for their work, measured by their quantitative and qualitative output as well as their success in the acquisition of projects, and fit to the general IBED mission. These issues are discussed in formalized annual meetings between the director and the tenured full professors. The role of the institute s management is to facilitate research and, if needed, set targets if results appear to be under par. In turn, professors have such meetings with the scientific staff members in their group. Thus, full professors have their own responsibility with respect to the quality of research within the scientific area of their respective chairs, and have their own budgets. The director holds them responsible for scientific performance, as well as the financial status and personnel well being in their groups. Having said this, the institute benefits greatly from collaboration at the theme level and also at the level of IBED as a whole, as it is more and more evident that complementary expertise is needed in modern research. The IBED director stimulates a bottom-up approach to such initiatives, in which scientists with common interests and complementary expertise find each other in collaborative projects, of which there are many examples within IBED. Shared, efficient facilities are another way to enhance collaboration, which is realized by the creation of general lab facilities and a GIS-studio in which technicians and scientists interact closely. While academic freedom of individual researchers is highly valued, it is also clear that research priorities change, as well as budgets and funding opportunities. For issues that have to do with the midto long term development of the institute (see section A.3), the director has an active role in determining the agenda, and decides on the institute s policies and priorities. The style of management is to interact with the scientific community in the institute about such issues, and, if possible, seek consensus on and support for important developments affecting the future directions of the institute. This is realized by a number of formalized meetings and activities: Two-weekly meeting of the institute s Management Team in which important new developments are identified, Two-monthly meeting of the IBED Scientific Advisory Committee (see below), leading to advice to the Director on the actions to be taken, Monthly meeting of all professors in the institute (extended to other scientific staff members when needed). Apart from these formalized meetings, the director has frequent bilateral contacts with individual professors and other tenured staff members involved in important developments. The director has an active role in initiating and leading the discussion. He also discusses institute policies with the Faculty leadership, and is ultimately responsible for the decisions made. Means of motivation Motivation of the scientific staff in a university environment depends on the presence of a stimulating research environment with excellent facilities, the potential to produce high quality papers in the relevant peer-reviewed journals, and the possibilities to receive academic credits and other rewards of 15

16 recognition. IBED has implemented a supporting policy to affect these drivers for motivation that rests on three pillars: facilities and budgets, research and career planning, and IBED community building. The budgetary system of IBED provides specific allocations to the general facilities of the institute (technical staff, laboratories, greenhouse, GIS facility, climate rooms). In addition there is an allocation of research budgets (for consumables, travel, field work, instruments) to research groups based on the following premises: a default budget for each research group to secure part of the research of its core staff, an additional budget in relation to the number of completed PhD theses, a budget in relation to the size of acquired external grants (matching funds). The director has regular talks with each professor (and yearly on a formal basis, the jaargesprek ) in order to foster promising new initiatives, to discuss career perspectives, scientific developments and identify any arising problems or limiting factors. Likewise, each professor maintains similar intensive interactions with its staff, Post-docs and PhD students. In the annual talks new targets are set for the next period. Guidance and motivating of PhD students is often organised according to the guidelines set by the national research schools in which IBED participates. IBED aims to enhance the motivation of its personnel and their identification with IBED as an attractive institute that performs excellent scientific research by a variety of community building activities: High quality and high profile scientific results get special, wide attention and are actively communicated internally and externally, also through the institutional and faculty web pages, Organisation of the lecture series Seminars on Ecology and Evolution (http://www.science.uva.nl/ibed/see/). This series, organised by a committee of PhD students invites leading scientists from all over the world who have scientific interests in common with IBED research, Yearly IBED days to present and discuss IBED science in progress amongst our staff. External experts are sometimes invited as guest speakers, Outreach in relation to special events. For instance, in 2004 IBED organised a symposium on ecological modelling in honour of Simon A. Levin who received the Heineken prize 2004 for his work of mathematical techniques and models to understand the properties of ecosystems. This provided a platform for the related work at IBED of Dr. M.C. Boerlijst, Prof. J. Huisman, Prof. A.M. de Roos and Prof. M.W. Sabelis, Special events such as the special 2005 lustrum meeting in which IBED research with societal aspects was presented for a wide audience, Branding of activities by providing brochures, templates for posters and presentations etc., as well as presence on the internet, Informal excursions or other activities for personnel (scientist, supporting staff, technicians) organised at the institute or research group level. Communication and control Communication and control within the institute is organized with the array of mechanisms most of which were already explained above. In addition, IBED also has a Committee for the IBED PhD students (CIP), aiming at providing a joint platform to (a) address any problems or questions with respect to the rules and protocols for PhD students, and (b) serve as a forum to represent the PhD student s interests. The committee meets frequently with the IBED Management Team to discuss items requiring the attention of the director and the professors. However, tt should be noted that the split housing of the institute hampers the desired interaction at all levels of the institute. This will not be solved before the new Faculty building will be available (prognosis ). Meanwhile, activities such as the yearly IBED days at a special location prove to be a valuable way to interact in an informal setting, which is often the first step to collaboration. 16

17 Communication and control at the Faculty level is formalized in several ways. The scientific, financial and personnel reporting of IBED is the subject of regular meetings of the Dean with the institute s director. All directors and the Dean also interact in more general directors meetings, and once every year in a special two-day strategy meeting. The director also writes annual reports in which the main developments and results are presented, and is responsible for a multi-annual plan that has to be approved by the Faculty, and in which major new developments are described. Many aspects in the present self evaluation stem from the multi-annual plan , written by the previous director Prof. Jan Sevink, and consultation with the external Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC, see A.9). Undergraduate and graduate training is organized by the Educational Institutes of the Faculty. The content of the programmes depends strongly on the input from the scientists that work in research institutes such as IBED, and intensive interaction with various lines of communication exists between the educational and research institutes: Frequent meetings between the respective directors, meetings of special task forces, for instance when changes to the curriculum have to be made, and meetings of formal committee s that have the task to monitor and maintain the high quality of education, and application of the relevant (legal) rules and regulations. IBED and its sister institute of life sciences (SILS) are both part of the Department of Biology and Physical Geography. This is not a formal, managed organisation, but a platform in which issues are discussed concerning the position of the Life and Earth Sciences in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands and internationally. The chairperson of this Department (previously Prof. Steph Menken, IBED, now Prof. Marian Joels, SILS) organizes meetings in which developments and possible actions are discussed. Moreover, the chairperson has an advisory role towards the Dean of the Faculty, for instance about the establishment of new chairs and the appointment of chair holders. Processes of improvement and innovation The director, the IBED Scientific Advisory Committee (WAC) as well as all professors are promoting a scientific climate directed at scientific quality and exploitation of the opportunities of modern developments in science. This is reflected in the increasing use of techniques and data from genomic research and intensive use of computational methods such as GIS-based modelling and GRID computing. A new research initiative that is being developed bundles IBED expertise in aquatic research, under the project heading Dynamics in Aquatic Ecosystems. The relatively young mix of disciplines in IBED is regarded as an opportunity to enter new and innovative research fields. The WAC assists the director in identifying opportunities and defining the research policies and priorities, and by advising on new research proposals with major financial consequences. In addition to these changes in research topics, policies and methodologies, improvement is also achieved by stimulating researchers in their work. Career development is an explicit topic in the annual meetings between the director and the chair holders, as well as between chair holders and scientific staff in their groups. In such meetings progress is discussed and new targets are set. Specific attention is given to the possibilities to acquire personal grants. CV of the director Prof. dr. P.H. (Peter) van Tienderen, Date of Birth: Appointed as Professor at University of Amsterdam: Appointed as IBED director: (ad interim) (for 5 years) Peter van Tienderen studied biology at Utrecht University and did his PhD research at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) in Heteren. His PhD Thesis was titled "On the morphology of Plantago lanceolata: selection, adaptation, constraints." (1989, Utrecht University). After his PhD he received a Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) grant to work as a Post-doc at Duke University with Prof. J. Antonovics for one year, after which he first worked as a tenured scientist in a shared position between Wageningen University and the NIOO, and later fulltime at the NIOO. 17

18 From he was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, a period in which the journal grew enormously in all aspects (scope, quality, submissions). He implemented the transition to a fully electronic system, digitalisation, and more rapid editorial procedures. During the same period the European Society for Evolutionary Biology more than tripled its membership, and both personal and institutional journal subscriptions grew constantly. By the end of 2001 he was appointed as professor in Experimental Plant Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. Research interests focus on adaptation and differentiation in higher plant species, in relation to their breeding system. Study objects are different species of the genus Rorippa (Yellow Cress), as well as other members of the family Brassicaceae (crucifers), e.g. Arabidopsis, Draba. Theoretical work concerns modelling evolution of diversity in a quantitative genetic framework, and using matrix projection models in ecology and evolution. Two aspects with a direct societal relevance and that are connected to environmental management are studied: (i) Human impacts on biodiversity and in particular the effects of habitat fragmentation on the variation and functioning of species, and (ii) Assessment of the risks of the escape of transgenes to wild relatives. In 2005 he also became director of IBED, dividing his time between science and management. 18

19 A.3 Strategy and policy Five years have passed since the conception of IBED and the first definition of its general mission. Over these years, the recognition of the institute with its unique focus and mix of expertises has grown steadily. This is by no means an insignificant achievement given the diverse roots of the scientist united in IBED, and the disadvantages of not being housed at a single location. Assets of IBED that contributed to this success are: A collective task to advance our understanding of the diversity, functioning, and dynamics of ecosystems at different scales, in time as well as space, Integration of research of both biotic and abiotic ecosystem processes, A firm connection between experimental research and modelling/data analysis, Modern facilities for research, including molecular genetic and chemical/analytical laboratories, extensive growth facilities for micro-organisms, plants and animals, and a GIS-studio, A research focus that allows contributions to many societal issues, for example protection of endangered species, prevention of toxic algal blooms, desertification of land, and the spread of infectious diseases, A leading role in the national research schools Biodiversity and Centre for Geo-ecological research ICG. In 2004, the IBED director formulated a multi-annual plan for the period , in which IBED future developments were described. The plan was discussed with the internal WAC, the international SAC and the Dean of the Faculty, and was subsequently approved by the University Board. The main directions are explicated in this self-evaluation. Two drivers are influencing the directions of the institute s strategy. As in any professional scientific organisation, the research strategy depends very much on the qualified scientific staff recognizing the present-day challenges and opportunities of modern science. The spirit of the staff to cooperate in the new Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics contributed to a common understanding of such challenges and opportunities. This is reflected in a strategy with renewed scientific focus, together with appropriate flexibility to allow for entering new areas. Such a strategy requires leadership and regular interaction of the senior staff to discuss progress and to benefit jointly from new opportunities. The previous chapter A.2 (Leadership) documents the policy of IBED in this regard. The second factor is the external context as a determinant for strategic developments. The economic reality of limited resources forces IBED to make choices and set priorities. A steadily decreasing direct university funding, together with the conditions set by external financial opportunities also shape IBED policies. In response, the faculty has defined an overarching strategy to promote a more scientific entrepreneurial attitude and a faculty-wide focus on e-science, the interplay between information technology and the natural sciences. The adjusted strategy of IBED reflects these choices, finding a balance between the internal ambitions in fundamental research and the opportunities and requirements of the external environment. It was concluded that the general mission of IBED as formulated in 2000 was still very much alive. However, the focus of the three research themes was redefined and updated, to take advantage of new opportunities in research, and new initiatives have been started. These major strategic choices of IBED are summarized below, together with the actions that are currently being undertaken. One of the ways in which the research capacity of IBED can be increased is the affiliation with other institutes by means of special chairs. The current special chairs are listed in the scheme of A.2.2, and new initiatives are listed in the following paragraphs. A.3.1 Renewed focus of IBED research themes IBED redefined its three themes as clusters of research, although these clusters are not meant as entities with strict walls between them. In fact, the central IBED mission, understanding the interactions among organisms as well as between organisms and their environment, and the dynamics that emerge from these interactions necessitates the combination of different disciplines and expertises. The renewed focus in the IBED themes coincides with the priorities that are being defined by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the main Dutch granting organisation for scientific research, in its recently published Research Strategy for In this coming period 19

20 NWO proposes to pursue three lines of action: (1) Opportunities for researchers, (2) Consolidating strengths and (3) Science for Society. These actions are in line with the strategy of IBED (e.g. see A.9.2. Science for Society). NWO identified a number of broad, focal research themes that have direct relations with the IBED research themes, in particular System Earth, Dynamics of Complex Systems and Systems Biology. In addition, the Earth and Life Sciences branch of NWO defined specific research programs. In particular the programs Genomics in Ecology and Evolution and Biodiversity should provide excellent funding opportunities for IBED research. Theme I: Biodiversity and Evolution The fundamental question in this theme is: What are the mechanisms that create and maintain biodiversity in an evolutionary context? Phylogenetic and biogeographical patterns are studied to infer the underlying processes; experiments are conducted to test evolutionary hypotheses, with special emphasis on the driving forces behind speciation and extinction. Two new developments that will be implemented are more focus on functional biodiversity, taking advantage of modern developments in genomics research, and the analyses of complex biodiversity data. IBED intends to establish a new special chair in Biodiversity Informatics in this field, to promote this area. Theme II: Geo-Ecology The main focus in Theme II concern the question: How do abiotic and biotic processes interact to determine the dynamics of ecosystems? Studies range from a micro scale, for instance the fate of pollutants in a system, to a global scale, for instance the reconstruction of the Earth s climate in the past. New developments that are being implemented are the use of advanced analytical methods, spatial modelling using distributed data, and integration of data from different sources for the reconstruction of the Earth s past. IBED intents to create a stronger profile in the field of Earth System Science by appointing a new research leader in this field. He/she will be responsible for the experimental/empirical research in this theme, with tight links to the theoretical and computational scientists of IBED. Such a shift in research focus can be realised given the retirement of the current chair holder in Earth Surface Processes and Materials (ESPM). Theme III: Community Dynamics The main question in this theme is: What are the driving forces behind changes in populations and communities? A wide range of systems is studied, in terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments, using experimental and modelling approaches. The inclusion of the research group Aquatic Ecology and Ecotoxicology, headed by Prof. W. Admiraal, in 2005 further strengthened IBED s profile in Aquatic Research. IBED also intends to establish a new special chair in Marine Microbiology to further promote this field. New scientific developments concern more focus on non-stable ecological and evolutionary dynamics (chaos, cycles, multiple stable states, regime shifts). The prestigious Royal Academy Professorship awarded to Prof. M.W. Sabelis in 2006 will also provide opportunities for new research in this area. A.3.2 Strategic Research The main way to improve the academic reputation of IBED is by means of excellent research, published in leading journals. IBED has an impressive research output both in quantity and quality, as will become clear in the remainder of this report. However, the university, including IBED, increasingly depends on external funding that is often aimed at applied rather than fundamental issues. Although IBED has a very good track record in the acquisition of funds, it is dangerous to rely on past performance while the outside world is changing. IBED s efforts in the coming years will focus on the establishment of strategic alliances with partners in and outside the academic world, in order to develop joint research programs and projects. In order to promote IBED as a potential partner within and outside the scientific world, the applied side of IBED s research will be given more emphasis. This initiative was given the label Science for Society, and the IBED lustrum in the first event under this heading made clear that IBED research is related to many societal issues. See further details in chapter A.9 on the Science for Society initiative. Keeping in line with the institute s main mission and research themes, the strategic research portfolio will be further developed, utilizing the 20

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