Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis
Bringing together several first‐class natural history collections, the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis (NCB Naturalis) will instantly house the world's fifth largest specimen collection. NCB Naturalis results from the merger of the Zoological Museum Amsterdam (ZMA), National Museum of Natural History Naturalis and the branches of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (NHN).
These collections, containing irreplaceable and invaluable information on the variety of life on Earth, will act as an international magnet for research into understanding, preserving and sustainably using the planet’s biodiversity. While the entire biodiversity is deteriorating at accelerating pace, new unprecedented technical possibilities rapidly increase our ability to study and understand the processes behind maintaining and generating species richness. Thanks to the merging of the collections and the research staff in the NCB Naturalis, the Netherlands is uniquely positioned to capture a prime spot in a burgeoning biodiversity science field.
NCB Naturalis will rest on two pillars: (i) its huge collection and (ii) its international reputation in systematic research in past and present.
By further developing novel molecular and digital techniques, and by working intensively together with Dutch and foreign partners, including those from well‐established European networks, NCB Naturalis will grow to become a major force of biodiversity research and a key supplier of research and management tools that will be used throughout society. For example, the centre will carry out major parts of the global endeavour to create DNA barcodes for millions of species. These e.g.barcodes will, for instance, add substantially to the improved identification of economically significant pest species. NCB Naturalis will be highly relevant to society in several crucial areas: assessing the threats to biodiversity, compliance with and enforcing of international biodiversity regulations, and improving and increasing development cooperation.
In addition, NCB Naturalis will not only be a scientific centre of excellence but also an international top league museum with high ambitions. The latter is based on Naturalis’s successes with regards to public awareness and education, its collection being an important part of Dutch cultural heritage. The Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis will be located at the BioScience Park at Leiden.
Mission of NCB Naturalis
The NCB Naturalis mission is to be an open archive of Life’s Diversity dedicated to reconstruct and understand the Tree of Life, to educate people about our natural world, and to raise awareness for the sustainable use of Earth’s living resources.
- Historical background
On the 20th of December 2005 the Ministry OCW2 met with representatives of the National Museum of Natural History Naturalis, the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, Utrecht University, and Wageningen University and Research Centre. In this meeting it was decided to perform an analysis of the feasibility to create a merged national institute for biodiversity. The overall conclusion of this report (“NCB: Museum en Academische Werkplaats voor Onderzoek en Onderwijs”, 14‐6‐2006) was: “The NCB is not only feasible – it is a unique opportunity!”.
The NCB is profiled more in detail in the document “Making the Tree of Life Work” that iAnnex 1 in the present implementation plan. 2 The Ministry OCW is the Ministry of Education, culture and science in the Netherlands. Subsequently, a business plan 2006‐2015 (“NCB: Business plan 20062015”,
1‐7‐2006) was composed on the request of the Ministry OCW. This business plan and the previously mentioned feasibility report were discussed with the Ministry OCW on 17‐10‐2006. This discussion resulted in the decision to put together a detailed project design for the NCB (“NCB: Ontwerpplan 20082012”, 2‐7‐2007) focussing on the four main tasks of the institute: Scientific Research, Education, Collection management, and Public outreach. The project design was the basis for a formal request to the Ministry OCW to subsidize the NCB.
In July 2007, the Ministry OCW installed the commission Nationale Roadmap Grootschalige Onderzoeksfaciliteiten with the primary aim to recommend the Minister which large research facilities should be set up in the Netherlands. Meanwhile several ministries in The Netherlands, including OCW, composed a biodiversity policy plan 2008‐2012 (“Biodiversiteit werkt voor natuur voor mensen voor altijd”, April 2008) in which the importance of biodiversity research and the role of the NCB were stressed. In June 2008, we submitted an application to include the NCB and a joint NCB/ CBS DNA barcoding facility in this National Roadmap entitled “NCB/CBS: Making the Tree of Life work”. In total, 91 applications were submitted for the Roadmap, and in its final report (“Nederlandse Roadmap Grootschalige Onderzoeksfaciliteiten”, October 2008) the commission advised the Ministry to support 25 facilities, which are considered of importance for the vitality and innovative capacity of the Dutch scientific community. In the domain of Environmental Sciences and Energy, the NCB was included as one of the prioritized large‐scale research facilities. Simultaneously, in August 2008 a proposal was submitted to the Fonds Economische Structuurversterking (FES) within the programme Largescale Research Infrastructures for the 2009 round (part of this proposal was the “NCB/CBS: Making the Tree of Life work” document). The proposal, composed in cooperation with the Ministry OCW, defined two investment priorities: • An investment of 23 million € for bringing together, integrating and digitising specimen collections and collection data of the NCB institutions. • An investment of 20 million € for research facilities, including facilities for a DNA‐Barcoding node on the European scale, to be sustained jointly by the NCB and the CBS. This proposal was positively reviewed (“Gunstig”) by the Centraal Plan Bureau (CPB) and by the FES Expert Commission. However, the NCB Board was informed that (i) any contribution from the FES‐subsidy depends on additional information on the long‐term (ii) exploitation of the NCB that the NCB partners have to supply, and that the total amount of the FES contribution will not exceed 30 million €.
It is certain, however, that the Ministry OCW decided in September 2008 to subsidize the NCB with 5 million € per year from the year 2008 onwards. This new, structural support gives a firm base for implementing the Phase 1 of the NCB. In this phase, two general objectives stand out:
• Implementing the first phase of the investment project in scientific research, as planned in the “NCB/CBS: Making the Tree of Life work” document (Working‐group Programmatic Research).
• Realising an infrastructure to accommodate the ZMA and NHN collections and the research facilities (phase 1) at the BioScience park next to the Naturalis building in Leiden (Working‐group NCB Infrastructure).
September 2009 we received good news: the one time FES contribution of 30 million € was awarded. This news made the transitory board of the NCB decide to establish the NCB in January 2010.
In December 2009 the working title: ‘Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity’ was changed into the definite, legal name: Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis (standard acronym: NCB Naturalis)