Several summer activities – African Smart Cities Lab, One Conference 2022, EFSA & EBTC joint project, Guest Lecture, “Virtual Brown Bag Lunch”

Considering that in last weeks I was pretty active in delivering very many talks, let me use this post to summarize some of them thereby remaining them in my memory as well as allowing you, my dear reader, to pick up some ideas or navigate to some projects (both projects, initiatives, postgraduate programs, joint workshops or “lunchs” for business and academia) of your interest. So this post is less about self-advertisement and my role in the below discussed events as both panelist, keynote, guest lecturer, invited speaker and expert, but more about very interesting projects, initiatives and labs currently running in different countries and at different scales – local, national, regional and international. And as “thank you” for the organizers of each of them, I would like to shed a light on them in this post, drawing your attention to them!

All in all, this post is about participating as a panelist for One Conference 2022, keynote for African Smart Cities Lab projects’ workshop (Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia, South Africa, Rwanda, Benin, Switzerland), Guest Lecture for master and doctoral students of the Federal University of Technology – Paraná (UTFPR, Postgraduate Program in Production Engineering, Brasil), and invited speaker / expert for monthly “Virtual Brown Bag Lunch” (Mexico), and EFSA & EBTC joint project (Italy) on the creation of a standard for data exchange in support of automation of Systematic Review.

So, let’s start with the most spontaneous, namely “Integration of open data and artificial intelligence in the development of smart cities in Africa” workshop organized as part of the African Cities Lab Project, where I was invited as a keynote speaker. Actually, African Smart Cities Lab project is a very interesting initiative I recently was glad to get familiar with. It is a joint initiative led by École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland), the Kwame Nkrumah’​ University of Science and Technology, Kumasi (Ghana), the UM6P – Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (Maroc), Sèmè City campus (Benin), the Faculty of Sciences of Bizerta – University of Carthage (Tunisia), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), and the University of Rwanda that aims to create a digital education platform on urban development in Africa, offering quality MOOC and online, continuing education training for professionals. It is also expected to act as a forum for the exchange of digital educational resources and the management and governance of African cities to foster sustainable urban development. The very first workshop took place July 5 in an online mode, where 9 speakers were invited to share their experience on this topic and allow setting the scene for the development of African Smart Cities, considering their potential, but also some bottlenecks.

All in all, two very fruitful sessions with presentations delivered by me, Vitor Pessoa Colombo, Constant Cap, Oualid Ali, Jérôme Chenal, Nesrine Chehata, AKDIM Tariq, Christelle Gracia Gbado, Willy Franck Sob took place and raised a lot of questions, finding the answers for many of them. My talk was titled “Open data and crowdsourced data as enablers and drivers for smart African cities” (see slides below…)

Here, let me immediately mention another activity – a Guest LectureThe role of open data in the development of sustainable smart cities and smart society“, I delivered to students of the Federal University of Technology – Parana (UTFPR, Brazil) and, more precisely so-called PPGEP program – Postgraduate Program in Production Engineering (port. Programa de Pós-Graduação em Engenharia de Produção), in scope of which I was pleasured to raise a discussion on three topics of particular interest – open data, Smart City, and Society 5.0, which are actually very interrelated. This also allowed me to refer to one of our recent studies – Transparency of open data ecosystems in smart cities: definition and assessment of the maturity of transparency in 22 smart cities – published together with my colleagues – Martin Lnenicka, Mariusz Luterek, Otmane Azeroual, Dandison Ukpabi, Visvadis Valtenbergs, and Renata Machova in Sustainable Cities and Society (Q1, Impact Factor: 7.587, SNIP: 2.347, CiteScore: 10.7).

And now, it’s time to turn to two events organized by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The first and probably the most “crowded” due to a very high rate of the attendance was the ONE Conference 2022 (Health, Environment, Society), which took place between June 21 and 24, Brussels, Belgium. It was co-organised by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and its European sister agencies European Environment Agency, European Medicines Agency, European Chemicals Agency, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), but if you are an active follower of my blog, you know this already, same as probably remember that I posted about this event previously inviting you to join us in Belgium or online. Since I have elaborated on the course of the event, its main objectives and tracks, I will not repeat this information. Instead, let me briefly summarize key takeaways with a particular focus on the panel for which I served as a panelist – the “ONE society” thematic track, panel discussion “Turning open science into practice: causality as a showcase”. It was a very nice experience and opportunity for sharing our experience on obstacles, benefits and the feasibility of adopting open science approaches, and elaborate on the following questions (although they were more but these one are my favorites):
💡Can the use of open science increase trust to regulatory science? Or does it increase the risk to lose focus, introduce conflicting interests and, thus, threaten reputation? What are the barriers to make open science viable in support to the scientific assessment process carried out by public organizations?
💡What are the tools/ methods available enabling, supporting and sustaining long term open science initiatives today and what could be envisaged for the future?
💡Do we need a governance to handle open data in support to scientific assessment processes carried out by regulatory science bodies?
💡How the data coming from different sources can be harmonized making it appropriate for further use and combination?

These and many more questions were discussed by panelists with different background and expertise, which were nicely presented by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) breaking down our experience in four categories – social science (Leonie Dendler, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment BfR), open data expert (Anastasija Nikiforova,) EOSC Association, University of Tartu, Institute of Computer Science, lawyer (Thomas Margoni, KU Leuven ), regulatory science (Sven Schade, Joint Research Centre, EU Science, Research and Innovation). Many thanks Laura Martino, Federica Barrucci, Claudia Cascio, Laura Ciccolallo, Marios Georgiadis, Giovanni Iacono, Yannick Spill (European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)), and of course to Tony Smith and Jean-François Dechamp (European Commission). For more information, refer to this page.

And as a follow-up for this event, I was kindly invited by EFSA to contribute to setting the scene on the concept of ‘standards for data exchange’, ‘standards for data content’ and ‘standards for data generation’ as part of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Evidence-Based Toxicology Collaboration (EBTC) ongoing project on the creation of a standard for data exchange in support of automation of Systematic Review (as the answer to the call made in “Roadmap for actions on artificial intelligence for evidence management in risk assessment”). It was really nice to know that what we are doing in EOSC Association (Task Force “FAIR metrics and data quality”) is of interest for our colleagues from EFSA and EBTC.
Also, it was super nice to listen other points of view and get involved in the discussion with other speakers and organisers – Elisa Aiassa, Angelo Cafaro, Fulvio Barizzone, Ermanno Cavalli, Marios Georgiadis, Irene Pilar, Irene Muñoz Guajardo, Federica Barrucci, Daniela Tomcikova, Carsten Behring, Irene Da Costa, Raquel Costa, Maeve Cushen, Laura Martino, Yannick Spill, Davide Arcella, Valeria Ercolano, Vittoria Flamini, Kim Wever, Gunn Vist, Annette Bitsch, Daniele Wikoff, Carlijn Hooijmans, Sebastian Hoffmann, Seneca Fitch, Paul Whaley, Katya Tsaioun, Alexandra Bannach-Brown, Ashley Elizabeth Muller, Anne Thessen, Julie McMurray, Brian Alper, Khalid Shahin, Bryn Rhodes, Kaitlyn Hair. The next workshop is expected to take place in September with the first draft ready by the end of this year and presented during one of the upcoming events. More info on this will follow 🙂

In addition, I was asked by my Mexican colleagues to deliver an invited talk for monthly “Virtual Brown Bag Lunch Talks” intended for the Information Technologies, Manufacturing, and Engineering Employees in Companies associated with Index Manufacturing Association (Mexico, web-based). After discussing several topics with the organizers of this event, we decided that this time the most relevant talk for the audience would be “Data Security as a top priority or what Internet of Things (IoT) Search engines know about you“. Again, if you are an active follower, you will probably realize quickly that it is based on a list of my previous studies – study#1, study#2, study#3 and book chapter.

All in all, while these were just a few activities I was busy with during the last weeks and, these weeks were indeed very busy but extreeeemely interesting with so many different events! I am grateful to all those people, who invited me to take part in them and believe that this is just one of the opportunities we had to collaborate and there are many more in the future!

ONE Conference 2022: why to attend and how to meet me there?

The ONE Conference 2022 (Health, Environment, Society) – a four-day event happening in Brussels and online, is coming! Register and meet me there ️(Brussels & online, 21-24 June) as one of panelists of the “Turning open science into practice: causality as a showcase” thematic session as part of “ONE society” thematic track.

ONE Conference 2022 provides its attendees with a series of break-out sessions grouped in four thematic tracks – ONE Life, ONE Planet, ONE Society and MANY Ways. The sessions are complemented by side events and networking opportunities for both in-person and online participants, where some side events, in the form of workshops, will take place before the formal start of the conference.

The ONE Conference 2022 is co-organised by EFSA and its European sister agencies – the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control [ECDC], the European Chemicals Agency [ECHA], the European Environment Agency [EEA] and the European Medicines Agency [EMA] and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), with the ambition of embracing a ONE Health and ONE Society approaches.

Briefly about the above mentioned thematic tracks:

  • the ONE Society sessions will put the societal dimension of food safety and its ecosystem in the spotlight: from the role of society in policy making, to collaboration and partnerships right through to bringing research closer to policy. Dolors Montserrat from the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee will speak on the panel addressing citizens’ participation in EU decision-making, while former Dutch Minister Gerda Verburg from the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) Movement features in the session on collaboration among actors in the food safety field. Michael Catchpole, Chief Scientist of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), will moderate the discussion on how ENVI agencies can work together to support research and bridge the gap between research and policy. Meanwhile, Shani Evenstein Sigalov, member of the Wikimedia Foundation and lecturer at the University of Tel Aviv, will share her views on opening up regulatory science.
  • the ONE Life sessions will focus on the questions on how to ensure safe, healthy and sustainable food, where Francesco Branca (Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety of the World Health Organization (WHO)) will share his views on how to define healthy diets within sustainability boundaries as part of a session on sustainability and food security. Matias Zurbrigen (Head of the Institute of Synthetic Biology of the University of Dusseldorf) will consider safety aspects relating to new food production approaches such as synthetic biology as part of a session on innovative foods. Meanwhile, Ilaria Capua from the University of Florida, will focus on the post-pandemic environment and the concept of Circular Health as part of a discussion on improving our understanding of infectious diseases. How to ensure safety assessments keep pace with the emergence of new diseases will also be discussed. Luisa Peixe, professor at the University of Porto and member of EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards, will discuss the growing challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) focussing on the link to food-producing environments.
  • the ONE Planet sessions will focus on the environmental dimension of food safety and sustainability, where Serenella Sala from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission is among the experts who will share their views on how to develop a framework for sustainability assessments to measure progress made towards environmental goals. Annette Aldrich from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), an expert in ecotoxicology and member of EFSA’s Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues, will explain why a paradigm shift is needed in the environmental risk assessment of pesticides. Helen Elizabeth Roy from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will feature in discussions on plant protection in the face of globalisation, particularly how global trade and climate change will affect plant pests, invasive species and diseases. Meanwhile, Linda Keeling, professor of Animal Welfare at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), will speak about the links between animal welfare and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a session dedicated to improving animal welfare and reducing environmental impacts in relation to animal-sourced food.
  • the MANY WAYS sessions will cover topics ranging from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to new approach methodologies (NAMs), where Raluca Crisan, founder and CTO of the testing platform ETIQ AI, will speak in the session related to integrating AI technology and big data in food safety. Chris Gennings, professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will discuss how the risk assessment of combined exposure to multiple chemicals can be developed. The session on new approach methodologies (NAMs) moderated by Maurice Whelan, head of the EU Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing at the Joint Research Centre (JRC), will explore opportunities for moving beyond animal testing to in vitro and in silico approaches. The session on Endocrine Disruptors (EDs) will feature Andreas Kortenkamp, professor at Brunel University, who will deliver a talk on the science behind the identification of endocrine disruptors for humans and non-target organisms. The session will also look at benefits of shifting to a more integrated assessment for chemicals as a whole. Sangeeta Khare from the National Center for Toxicological Research of the US Food and Drug Administration will address risk assessment criteria for gastrointestinal toxicity induced by xenobiotics as part of a session on the microbiome. The session will examine the evidence base connecting the microbiome, chemicals and human health.
  • the closing plenary to wrap up the four-day programme will reflect on the outcomes of the thematic (break-out) sessions. The discussion will also address how the One Health principles could help advance food safety assessments, and how more integrated, cross-sectoral and collaborative health assessments could inform policies shaping the transition towards more sustainable food systems. Sandra Gallina, the European Commission’s Director-General for Health and Food Safety, will outline the EU’s policy vision for the transition towards more sustainable and resilient food systems. Bernhard Url, EFSA’s Executive Director, will bring the conference to a close with some concluding remarks.

But let’s take a step back to the session “ONE society” thematic track I emphasized before and Turning open science into practice: causality as a showcase thematic session, in which I am involved as one of four panelists, invited to share my experience on the data quality, open science and open data questions in both academia and industry with the reference to the European Open Science Cloud I represent (Task Force “FAIR metrics and data quality”) and my previous experience working as IT-expert at the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, BBMRI-ERIC Latvian National Node. This session is devoted to the open science movement resulted in the demand for transparent and accessible-to-all scientific processes. Open science promotes and supports research collaboration and co-creation, including public participation in the scientific process via crowdsourcing data, methods, computational capacity and scientific knowledge. The adoption of a more participatory approach offers new opportunities to regulatory science organizations. It helps them extend the pool of data, expertise and knowledge from which to draw, thus accelerating their preparedness to address complex questions. It can also help in enhancing the public understanding of science, and in finally reducing citizens’ scepticism. An open science approach also poses challenges, including the need to monitor the accuracy and reliability of open data as well as their possible misuse. The session will offer an opportunity for sharing experiences on obstacles, benefits and the feasibility of adopting open science approaches in the context of regulatory science. The showcase example will focus on causality, i.e. the relationship between a cause and an effect. With larger availability of open access data, including those gathered using high-throughput techniques, unprecedented options for deeper insights into causality have emerged. Using causality as an illustrative example, the session intends to advance the discussion on how the principles of open science can be routinely implemented in the scientific activities performed by the European institutions. The guiding questions are: Can institutions benefit from open data and the open science movement, and if so, how? can participatory science accelerate finding solutions to quantitatively integrate heterogeneous sources to address causality? In other words, Whether and how open data currently available can be used to address the assessment of causal association between an agent and an effect in the regulatory domain? What are possible benefits and challenges from their use? How to guarantee that data and knowledge generated by an open science approach are accurate and reliable enough for use by regulatory science organisations? Which concrete actions need to be put in place to implement open science principles in the context of regulatory science? How to revise the legal framework to address new challenges related to personal data protection and intellectual property right? Although I am sure we will define many more questions to be asked and answered – hopefully answered 🙂

To sum up, this thematic session intends to advance the discussion on how the principles of open science can be routinely implemented in the scientific activities performed by the European Agencies/Institutions. Causality will be discussed as a case study topic, which, in fact, is among the most challenging questions which EU institutions are required to answer. 

All in all, it seems that the session should be incredibly interesting with many perspectives covered by its participants, with the coordinator of this session – Laura Martino, session contributors – Federica Barrucci, Claudia Cascio, Laura Ciccolallo, Marios Georgiadis, Giovanni Iacono, Yannick Spill both representing European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and panelists – me – Anastasija Nikiforova representing both the EOSC European Open Science Cloud Task Force ‘FAIR metrics and data quality’ and University of Tartu, Institute of Computer Science, Leonie Dendler from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Sven Schade representing Joint Research Centre (JRC), Foteini Zampati.


Read more about the event here.

Looking forward this event, fruitful discussions, great talks and decisions on how to make this world better!!!