During the session, I presented the interest of studying rare plants and the need to assess the relative success of different conservation measures. Besides its rationale and the diverse benefits for agriculture, biodiversity and human heritage, I discussed the hassle of getting money to setup programs and get money from national and European agencies. Being sexy for decision-makers and explaining key questions for reviewers was illustrated by deciders’’ responses to three calls for public tender for research proposals in the area of agriculture and biodiversity.
One proposal was for a European research grant on restoration of arable plant communities. Ten of the 52 eligible projects were accepted. Feedback to applicants pointed out some “scientific weakness” such as 1) Data very specific to single field: wider soil, climate and management conditions; 2) Reasons to rely on specific weed species; 3) Reasons for regular farming rather than set-aside, organic or bio-energy fields. The response to these comments is obvious from our point of view, but this must lead us to carefully explain the pros and cons to the experts that are botanists or agronomists or ecologists but rarely handle all expertises together. Indeed, the main social impact weakness opposed to our project was the appropriateness of Botanical Conservatories involved as stakeholders.
A second proposal aimed at a grant for a research mobility and exchange program (COST) among ten countries on a similar topic. Only ten proposals get financial support. Comments pointed out that the description was too soft and hardly convincing or lacking scientific facts, scientific instruments were not adequately described and explained, and innovation need to be better explained in more depth, and the protection of genetic resources by strategy of sustainable use was not planned. All these items are not as easy to achieve when data and facts are lacking due to a poorly developed research domain, when previous cooperation to harmonize projects has been inexistent because of lack of support, and when readers are not aware of the specific status of rare weeds versus “regular” wild endangered species.
In contrast, unexpectedly, we get success at national-level for a research grant on the selection of cornflower (a weed !!!) as a provider of agrosystem services. Of course, the topic was highly sexy in the framework of the Agroecology concept. Surfing on the agro-system green wave, showing evidence of segetal-specific eco-services and value as indicator of high environmental value are very important nowadays. Involving social actors and policy makers also is a valuable bonus to the project as it talks about common place of deciders. The definition of common objectives with a high potential for media impact could be one of the strategies of the Weed and Biodiversity Working Group to prepare high value plug-and-play projects.