Open research management for biodiversity and climate science in Indonesia
In 2019, a group of 267 young Indonesian scientists and 50 members of the Indonesian Young Academy of Sciences (ALMI) published a book entitled SAINS UNTUK BIODIVERSITAS INDONESIA, essentially a consensus report on the biodiversity of Indonesia. The book has invited a call for scientists of the younger generation to always stand and base their thoughts on science. The transformation from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy in Indonesia, and many places around the world now, has urged authoritative organizations to adopt an evidence-based policy to wisely use the natural resources that are available in a country.
In this blog post, Dr. Tatas Brotosudarmo, Associate Professor at the Department of Food Technology, Universitas Ciputra Surabaya, Indonesia, explores how knowledge of the rich biodiversity of a country can be documented and compiled, and hence, maintaining a comprehensive database of biodiversity and biological resources, which can be accessible to the public and also to policymakers, through open research management.
Understanding biodiversity and its economic impact
Indonesia plays a significant role as one of the world’s largest repositories of biological resources. Despite occupying only 1.3% of the world’s total land area, Indonesia is home to 25% of the world’s fishes (the largest repository of fish), 12% of the world’s mammals (second only to Brazil), 17.3% of the world’s reptiles and amphibians (the third largest repository of the species), and 17% of the total species of bird in the world.1 Additionally, 10% of the flowering species in the world are found in Indonesia, representing one of the world’s centers of agrobiodiversity.
Indonesia’s biodiversity has great potential for economic development. For example, small-scale coffee plantations around Lore Lindu National Park, Central Sulawesi, illustrate the economic value of pollination services. The relationship between bees and coffee farming that is established through pollination is made possible by the forest ecosystem in this area. When we look at the relationship between forest distance and the diversity of pollinator bees and Arabica coffee fruit yields, it is estimated that the forest provides pollination services at 46 euros per hectare, and annually the value reaches 470 euros per hectare.
Although Indonesia has a very rich biodiversity, many biotas are threatened with extinction due to the heavy land conversion for agriculture, housing, illegal hunting, and other overexploitation beyond their support capacity. Deforestation and land-use change are estimated at 2 million hectares per year and account for 85% of Indonesia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.2
Indonesia’s marine ecosystem, covering an approximate total of 2.13 million square kilometers, supports life on Earth. About 50%-80% of the oxygen produced on Earth comes from marine organisms, and at the same time, the marine ecosystem absorbs 25% of the world’s carbon emissions. However, this marine ecosystem is also in danger. Indonesia’s mangrove area as one of the largest carbon sinks has shrunk to a size of 1 million square kilometers due to human activities since they were first exploited in 1800.3 A study from the National Research and Innovation Agency also found that only 6.4% of Indonesia’s total coral reefs were in the very healthy category.4
Currently, Indonesia has affirmed its commitment to implementing environment and forestry-centric policy to support local, national, and global climate action, by increasing its greenhouse gas emission reduction target. In addition, Indonesia has made efforts to manage natural resources and the environment based on scientific research and state interest. However, most Indonesians still think that biodiversity is only about the conservation of endangered species. In fact, the issue of biodiversity starts from the smallest scope: the human environment to the wilderness to the depths of the ocean. The magnitude of the scope of biodiversity, if utilized, can be in line with Indonesia’s economic development. For example, in terms of food, the momentum of the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for Indonesia to re-campaign local food diversification, especially carbohydrate and protein sources. This can be integrated with vitamin and mineral sources from local fruits and vegetables into the food system. These efforts are very good at making food systems more stable and resilient.
Open research management for biodiversity data
Currently, the documentation of the biodiversity database in Indonesia is still scattered, although it has been included in the Indonesian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (IBSAP) 2015-2020, which was launched in 2016. At that time, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, currently under the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), launched the Indonesia Biodiversity Information Facility (InaBIF). The facility is used to provide a portal for the research community to store, manage, and integrate data and information on Indonesian genetic resources and traditional Indonesian knowledge.
Taking the example of microorganisms, there are at least 16 culture collections, including the Indonesian Culture Collection (InaCC), Balivet Culture Collection, Biofarma Culture Collection, Biogen Culture Collection, BPPT Culture Collection, and ITB Culture Collection. However, if you are trying to search those databases using Google Search you might not be able to find them easily. We believe there is a need to develop a centralized database system, at least such as ncbi.nlm.nih.gov or atcc.org, which is properly indexed. The database must be informative, user-friendly, and sustainable while at the same time it should be made accessible openly by researchers and the public, including policymakers. If our biodiversity database can become one data source, especially when it is combined with data on economic use and local wisdom related to biodiversity, then this one Indonesian biodiversity data will become a big capital for the sustainable development of the nation and state.
Tackling the challenges of open research management for biodiversity
To enable open research management for biodiversity and climate science in Indonesia, we have to build a good and mutual understanding and a balance of interests among stakeholders, especially between researchers, government or policymakers, and businesses. Access to and sharing of data is essential for biodiversity conservation and climate science. In the west, cutting-edge technologies are being developed for the efficient spread of scientific information. The challenge here in Indonesia is to implement open research due to the lack of funds, old infrastructure, and a traditional mindset. This is also partly due to concerns that private agencies would use biodiversity data to produce commercial products without giving any benefit back to the environment and society.
On the other hand, ecologically and economically valuable information is often locked in cupboards in a print format such as survey reports, monographs, research reports, and publications in low-circulating local journals, making their dissemination very difficult. Openness and the willingness to seek for identifying and prioritizing key stakeholder relationships and the initiative of clear and balanced communication are the basis for enabling open research management in biodiversity and climate science in Indonesia.
A recent incident of conflict between the government and the scientific community is an example of unbalanced communication, which then creates a pendulum effect such as sparking concern of an anti-science attitude among the government.5 Building understanding among stakeholders plays a very important role in having mutual benefits for the growth and development of a knowledge-based economy in Indonesia, hence a clear communication on knowledge creation, evaluation, and uses. We must reach societal actors beyond the traditional communities.
Open communication and open research management for biodiversity research
Indonesia’s biodiversity meets all the criteria as the basic capital for the nation’s survival and comparative advantage. Ironically, public literacy on biodiversity is still very low, whereas community support is very important to make biodiversity mainstream in the policy. Therefore, we should make a priority for strategic communication to garner public support for everything that enhances the management and utilization of biodiversity. Open communication is key to establishing good mutual understanding, as well as a foundation for evidence-based economic decisions. The next strategic step is to have an open gateway to provide researchers, policymakers, and practitioners with a dedicated space to share work and discuss topics related to biodiversity, enabling approaches from different angles and interdisciplinary areas of research.
Tatas Hardo Panintingjati Brotosudarmo received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Glasgow. He is an Indonesian biochemist, who works in food science and technology. He won several awards, including the Georg Forster Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2019 and the UK Alumni Professional Achievement Award in 2017 from the British Council. His work has influenced the Indonesian government’s policy on the use of synthetic food colors, turning it into a more environmentally sustainable solution.
Tatas is active in scientific and academic communities. He served as the President of the Indonesian Chemical Society (2017-2019), Chair of the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MSCA) Southeast Asia Chapter (2017-2019), and the Vice Chair for Science and Policy of the Indonesian Young Academy of Sciences (2018-2020). He is keen on promoting open science and open research around the world.
Tatas is one of our Open Thinking ambassadors. The ambassador program provides information about how F1000 is working with research communities internationally to progress the opportunities of open research and tackle the challenges to open research adoption. Read more about the program.
- Biodiversity facts of Indonesia, Convention on Biological Diversity
- Sulistiawati, Linda, Climate Justice in Indonesia: Challenges and Opportunities (October 8, 2012)
- A historical analysis of the drivers of loss and degradation of Indonesia’s mangroves
- The Status of Indonesian Coral Reefs 2019
- Banned Dutch researcher warns of dwindling scientific freedom in Indonesia
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