European research infrastructures for climate change and air pollution policies

Behind the acronyms of European research infrastructures there are some useful resources. Here is an overview of some of the most significant.

There are several research infrastructures in Europe that are of importance for the production of new scientific knowledge needed to develop climate and environment policy. From a societal point of view, it is important that this new knowledge is not only produced, but also finds its way into relevant policy processes and the documents that support these processes. Such documents can, for example, include reports by the IPCC that are used to guide the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement, publications within the United Nations Environment Programme, and reports intended to guide international treaties on emission control areas for shipping, as well as other treaties on air pollution.

Despite the importance of research infrastructures, it is not self-evident that they are known to the public or even to policymakers. Here I will briefly describe some of the infrastructures that are particularly relevant with regards to climate change and air pollution, and some of the services they provide.

Descriptions of the legal and financial statuses of the infrastructures go beyond the scope of this article, and this is even more true for an analysis of their performance. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that these infrastructures have gained significant economic support from the EU and/or nationally, even if many of them originate from bottom-up collaboration between university departments, field stations or individual researchers (and still have such constituents). Some of the infrastructures have long-term financing in place, whereas others do not.

Marko Reinikainen

Acknowledgement: This work is part of the AQUACOSM-plus project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 871081. The funding has supported the author of this work.

The infrastructures:

The Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure ACTRIS is a European infrastructure that produces data and information on short-lived atmospheric constituents and examines the variability of these constituents. ACTRIS has fixed, land-based observational platforms and long-term data on aerosols and trace-gases are also produced using highly advanced remote-sensing techniques. ACTRIS provides the opportunity to use its facilities via transnational access calls, which means that researchers can gain access to and get support for a visit to facilities via transnational access calls. Two calls were open on the homepage of ACTRIS when this article was written. Virtual access can also be provided. Other services that are found in the online service catalogue of ACTRIS include Access to Data, and Science and User Access Forum. The ACTRIS homepage also contains a section dedicated to describing its relevance for stakeholders, including a sub-section concerning policymakers.

More information can be found here:

AnaEE stands for Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems. This infrastructure covers experimental facilities that aim to understand the interactions between global change drivers on terrestrial and freshwater continental ecosystems in Europe. According to its homepage, the research is intended to provide a foundation for evidence-based adaptation and mitigation strategies for ecosystem health, and research can be carried out in areas such as land-use change, agricultural practices, biochar & crops, pests, and monitoring of GHG emissions and nutrients in subsurface drainage water. AnaEE also provides online analytical and modelling facilities that are coordinated with the experimental approach. These facilities can be accessed by stakeholders via the homepage of AnaEE.

More information can be found here:

The acronym stands for a network of leading ecosystem-scale experimental AQUAtic mesoCOSM facilities connecting rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans in Europe and beyond. This research infrastructure aims to strengthen a network of mesocosm facilities in aquatic environments.  Mesocosms are enclosures where parts of the natural environment can be contained and experimented on. AQUACOSM-plus features joint research initiatives, capacity building and standardisation.It also enables transnational access to a selection of mesocosm facilities or installations. One of the transnational access  calls was open on the homepage of the infrastructure when this article was published. There was also an open survey with the opportunity to be invited to an international expert workshop. Access to metadata (information about available data) is provided, together with environmental data that show the diversity of ecosystem conditions found within the infrastructure. The study of grand challenges such as those related to climate change are central to the work of this infrastructure.

More information can be found here:

The DANUBIUS-RI works with the River to Sea system. It aims to conduct and facilitate science in these systems, as well as providing research infrastructure and integrated knowledge. Ultimately, the aim is to ensure healthy River to Sea systems by 2050. To achieve this, the RI wants to provide science-based solutions to societal risks that are caused by e.g. climate change, extreme events and other adverse human impacts on River to Sea systems, and the consequences of these impacts for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Experts can access the DANUBIUS-RI Data Portal, which provides a set of services and open access to data.

More information can be found here:

EMBRC stands for the European Marine Biological Resource Centre. This infrastructure is dedicated to work regarding marine biological resources. The EMBRC partnership largely consists of marine stations around Europe, with a capacity to work on long-term data and experimental studies. EMBRC provides access to ecosystems and experimental facilities.  It has a catalogue of several services which in addition to providing access to conduct studies also includes access to marine biological materials such as living or preserved organisms. Access to datasets is also possible. Ultimately the aim of the services is to tackle societal issues.

More information can be found here:

The Integrated Carbon Observation System, ICOS, is a leading infrastructure for measurements of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric systems and in relating them to the carbon cycle in the systems mentioned above. As well as the vast quantity of measurements at different scales that is provided, its services include advanced possibilities to visualise and analyse data. The data products of the ICOS data portal are arranged in four categories, i.e. ICOS Near Real Time Observational Data, ICOS Final Fully Quality Controlled Observational Data, Historic Observational Time Series For ICOS and Non-ICOS Stations, and Elaborated Data Products.

More information can be found here:

The JERICO-RI (Joint European Research Infrastructure of Coastal Observatories: Science, Service, Sustainability) aims to enable an understanding of the responses of coastal marine systems to natural and anthropogenic stressors. To do so, the JERICO-RI adopts a systematic approach to monitor, observe, explore and analyse coastal marine systems in order to provide reliable information on their structure and function in the context of global change. The services of the JERICO-RI have included transnational access via three calls in 2020–2022, which means that scientists have been able to physically access infrastructures and practical services. Virtual access is still ongoing, offering the possibility of virtual use of 20 European coastal ocean services. This access is free of charge and open to all stakeholders and users. Apart from data, it offers other services, such as taxonomic imaging tools.

More information can be found here:

The Long Term Ecological Research Network consists of hundreds of individual sites globally, as well as larger platforms. The network and its sites are dedicated to collect, analyse and store long-term data. Sites can belong to the network without explicit funding for this purpose. In Europe, part of the network is currently organised as eLTER, and globally as ILTER. An important component of LTER is data storage and availability. An enormous amount of searchable long-term ecological data sets can be found in the DEIMS database, alongside information on research sites and activities.

More information can be found via the following sources:,, and

LifeWatch is an e-infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research. According to its homepage it addresses “...the pressing need for increasingly diverse data, larger and more advanced models, open data and open science clouds, making it possible to explore new frontiers in ecological science and support society in addressing planetary challenges”. The virtual services are categorised as thematic services, a catalogue of virtual labs, an EcoPortal (a repository of semantic resources for ecology), and a metadata catalogue.

More information can be found here:




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