Sharing Water-related Information to Tackle Changes in the Hydrosphere - for Operational Needs
The vision is to improve public services, and to foster business opportunities and growth, by establishing new forms of water research and facilitating the development of new products and services based on principles of sharing. The SWITCH-ON objectives are to use open data for implementing: 1) an innovative spatial information platform with open data tailored for direct water assessments, 2) an entirely new form of collaborative research for water-related sciences, 3) fourteen new operational products and services dedicated to appointed end-users, 4) new business and knowledge to inform individual and collective decisions in line with the Europe’s smart growth and environmental objectives. While focusing on water, the project is expected to inspire a much broader environmental and societal knowledge domain and many different end-users. The SWITCH-ON project will be one trigger in a contemporary global movement to better address environmental and societal challenges through openness and collaboration.
SVERIGES METEOROLOGISKA OCH HYDROLOGISKA INSTITUT
601 76 Norrkoeping
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
€ 1 426 388
Monica Wallgren (Ms.)
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ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - UNIVERSITA DI BOLOGNA
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31 October 2017
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SVERIGES METEOROLOGISKA OCH HYDROLOGISKA INSTITUT
Final Report Summary - SWITCH-ON (Sharing Water-related Information to Tackle Changes in the Hydrosphere - for Operational Needs)
The project SWITCH-ON addressed the water sector when thoroughly exploring and exploiting the potential of open data, as well as the three goals for EU research and innovation policy: Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World (“The three O’s”). Water information is highly sought after by many kinds of users, both within government and business as well as within civil society. Water touches virtually all societal and environmental domains and the knowledge domain is largely multidisciplinary, and thus, new water information and knowledge have a large societal impact. SWITCH-ON facilitated more effective water management and resilience to water hazards, by improving business opportunities, water research and public services. SWITCH-ON implemented the Three O’s in practice when using openness to develop 14 innovative products and services for the commercial market, a Virtual Water-Science Laboratory for open science and, finally, practical applications with real users in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
During the 4-year project, it was widely recognised that technological and societal developments are transforming research towards paradigms of open science. SWITCH-ON has shown the benefits achieved through the whole process chain of re-purposing (re-using under different context), going from open data to new scientific findings and new forms of research, and also to more dedicated and refined water water-information products. SWITCH-ON showed how to foster business opportunities and growth, by using principles of sharing, collaboration and agile development.
The SWITCH-ON project has reached the following objectives when using openness to implement:
1) An innovative spatial information platform with open data tailored for direct water assessments, featuring tools to upload new datasets and receive a DOI; a metadata catalogue with 804 quality checked metadata records with abstracts harvested by GEOSS; 73 new datasets which have been used to significantly advance scientific understanding in four categories; (i) floods; (ii) drought and water scarcity; (iii) water quality and deterioration; (iv) changing conditions.
2) An entirely new form of collaborative research for water-related sciences, in the form of an online Virtual Water-Science Laboratory, being co-designed and tested by scientists within and external to the project. At the end of the project, 7 experiments are ongoing and 5 experiments have been completed; the VWSL has gained high visibility and published several high-impact scientific papers; and it is launched and promoted by IAHS and will be maintained for two years after the project end.
3) Fourteen new information products and services dedicated to appointed end-users, of which ten have in total 22 paying customers or contribute to 15 new benefiting projects, which ensure an afterlife. The products can help reaching many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, through facilitating efficient and appropriate management of water quantity and quality throughout Europe and the world.
While focusing on water, the project is has inspired a broad environmental and societal knowledge domain and many different end-users. The SWITCH-ON project has been an effective trigger in a contemporary global movement to better address environmental and societal challenges through openness, collaboration and incremental development.
Project Context and Objectives:
Water is the basis for life and ultimately the reason why our society could develop the way it did. The availability and distribution of water supports the Earth’s ecosystem as well as our demands for drinking water, food, energy, industrial production, transport and recreation. However, due to its variable availability in space and time, water is also recognized as the most important environmental hazard world-wide; floods, droughts and water-borne pollution cause thousands of casualties, significant disruption and damages worth billions of euro every year. Population pressure, changes in lifestyle and climate change do not only dictate a more sustainable use of the limited resource water but also require improved protection of individuals as well as increased resilience of society as a whole against water-driven hazards.
As water touches all societal and environmental domains, there is a need for integrated, open Water Information offering efficient access to cross-regional, multidisciplinary water information for all types of end-users, such as governments, scientists, businesses and civil society. The project “Sharing Water-related Information to Tackle Changes in the Hydrosphere-for Operational Needs” (SWITCH-ON), profited from the untapped potential of open data, to advance both research and decision-making with new information and communication technology (ICT). In the project, new ICT was co-designed with users from either scientific or business domains (Fig. 1), and filled with open data and new science to facilitate sharing of information and knowledge. An open research infrastructure was developed to support transparency in science, and additionally, commercial products were developed to support decision-making in society among policy maker, water managers and citizens. Both the new research infrastructure and the commercial products were applied operationally in real world cases, which resulted in several high-impact scientific papers and more than 20 paying customers at the end of the project. The project applied an agile approach with direct and frequent outreach to users, which resulted in high visibility and substantial impact also outside the project.
Figure 1. The SWITCH-ON project as a conceptual outline in business and science domains within and outside of the project, and the linkage to the three goals for EU research and innovation policy; the Three O’s.
The global context and driving policies changed during the four year project period, and following the agile approach, the project goals were also slightly revised. The original objective of building a central, top-down “one-stop-shop” was abandoned for the more dynamic, bottom-up “ecosystem” concept in technological and societal development. When doing this, the SWITCH-ON project implemented the concept of openness in the water sector, by adopting the EU research and innovation policy: Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World (“The three O’s”). This approach was found more effective to implement, when SWITCH-ON brought together 15 organisations from across Europe to search for new forms of scientific research and development of tools using Open Data for water security and management.
The SWITCH-ON aimed at more effective water management and resilience to water hazards, under present conditions and under societal, climate or environmental change. It was shown that benefits can be achieved through collaborative research and re-purposing/re-using open data products into more dedicated and refined water products. The SWITCH-ON objectives were to use open data for implementing: 1) an innovative spatial information platform with open data tailored for direct water assessments, 2) an entirely new form of collaborative research for water-related sciences, 3) fourteen new operational products and services dedicated to appointed end-users, 4) new business and knowledge to inform individual and collective decisions in line with the Europe’s smart growth and environmental objectives.
The results and outcomes from the SWITCH-ON project have been disseminated and promoted widely within the target audiences of scientific communities, water managers and policy makers. The Virtual Water Science Laboratory has been introduced to the hydrological scientific community, which has raised the discussion around reproducibility in science. The lab was well received and many have agreed that using the lab facilitates openness, transparency and collaboration in Europe and around the world, and several scientific experiments were conducted also with external research groups. The laboratory consists of several ICT tools filled with content and data to facilitate sharing and collaboration. For the commercial domain and operational use, the 14 suggested products and services were all successfully developed, with business plans and paying customers at the end of the project. In addition to economic growth of the enterprises involved, this has the wider impact of improved access to high-quality water information for water managers and policy makers, which supports decision making and planning for the future.
1.1 Fulfilled objectives and highlights of results
The project was organised in six work packages and the target audience of project outcome was defined to encompass water consultancies (incl. software developers), water managers (incl. policy makers) and water scientists (incl. related researchers). The objective of Project management (WP1) was to provide tangible results from real-life applications to impact applied science with good examples. To communicate overall project goals within the consortium, WP1 used the figure of a strawman (Fig. 2); the backbone representing open data, the two legs open science and open innovation, the two arms embracing the target user groups, the head the overall idea and the smile the appreciation by the Project Officer. WP1 switched the software-development approach during the project, starting with a traditional, centralised and well-planed concept, which was tuned into using an agile development approach. This happened as the first version of the SIP expert GUI was found far too complicated for the users of SWITCH-ON. The project really benefitted from agile development (user groups, user stories, short development cycles, release and testing working software and quick feedback to the developers for improvements) and was recognised by the consortium as a major reason for the successful outcomes of products and services. The approach has already been re-cycled in new projects to benefit from quick releases in project management.
Figure 2. Project outline in the form of a strawman with achievements in red for each objective.
Objectives of the Spatial Information Platform (SIP) and re-purposed data - Highlights from WP2:
• A SIP consisting of existing, extended and newly developed client and server components (up and running from the beginning)
• Tools developed according requirements from other WPs using the agile development approach
• Enabled closing the circle of our motto "Find, Bind, Transform and Publish" (= Repurpose) Open Datasets using our own tools all accessible from the SWITCH-ON web portal. This is equal to making the data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usuable).
• New public web tools, including documentation + promotional materials developed for:
o Finding and previewing existing open datasets (BYOD)
o Registering & uploading new open datasets including metadata (ODR tool)
o Managing & preparing new research protocols (Protocol tool)
• The SIP turned into a GEOSS data provider for SWITCH-ON’s open data catalogue and integrated with OpenAIRE and DataCite, following the EC’s open data policy.
Objectives of the Virtual Water-Science Laboratory and comparative science - Highlights from WP3:
• New scientific findings on drought, floods, water pollution, climate change impact, water resources management and flood risk mitigation (activities resulted in 25 published papers).
• An extensive and innovative database of open data with metadata for water science.
• A new framework for developing collaborative and open, reproducible and repeatable experiments on water science using the idea of reference protocols, which was tested in 12 scientific experiments (resulting in 15 scientific papers).
• A portfolio of protocols for developing 12 specific experiments in water science.
• An open forum and virtual lab for water scientists.
Objectives of the Innovative commercial products and services - Highlights from WP4:
• 14 marketable innovative products based on open data, eventually resulting in 10 products with 37 (paying) customers and users.
• 51 end-users organisations involved.
• Extension of the beneficiaries’ networks with 1) potential customers and 2) partners (science and SME’s).
• Giving beneficiaries access to new markets.
• Improvement of skills for and/or new insides of 1) the opportunities of the use of open data and 2) marketing, market analysis and strategy.
Objectives of the SWITCH-ON products for business and governance to achieve societal impact - Highlights from WP5:
• Development, test and validation of the SWITCH-ON Market Analysis Framework (MAF) in close collaboration with WP4. The MAF is a toolbox that helps service and product developers think about, and make strategic choices with respect to marketability, demand for and value of the knowledge generated.
• Help to raise awareness on the importance of co-creation and demand-driven innovation that can ultimately result in products better responding to market demand. The application of the MAF was set up as a capacity building framework where product developers were confronted with marketing and business concepts that in many cases were new to them. This exposed European innovators to new ways of thinking and equipped them with tools to increase their competitiveness.
• Ensuring the sustainability of the MAF beyond SWITCH-ON. Further funding from the European Commission has been secured to transform the MAF into an online platform and apply it to 30 additional products and services in a new Horizon 2020 project on climate adaptation innovation (www.brigaid.eu).
• Outline of how governments who are opening their archives can benefit from the innovative solutions developed (often on a voluntary basis) using open data. A literature review and a series of semi-structured interviews with government officials and product developers helped elucidate the ways policy- and decision-makers are relating to open data. This insight was used to generate ideas how the SWITCH-ON product developers could use such relationships to enter new markets.
• Identification of new or unrealised opportunities and revenue models for the extended list of SWITCH-ON products and services. The draft business plans of all 14 SWITCH-ON products and services were reviewed, allowing for the identification of shortcomings and gaps, and the provision of detailed feedback and recommendations.
Objectives of the SWITCH-ON dissemination and outreach - Highlights from WP6:
• Knowledge brokering with potential end users during workshops increased understanding of the potentials of SWITCH-ON products for new markets and provided feedback of user requirements
2 Summary of Scientific and Technical Results
2.1 Spatial Information Platform and re-purposed data
Original goal: “The Spatial Information Platform will extend current state of the art by giving support for integration, re-purposing, management, documentation and publication. The platform will be the backbone in the web portal “SWITCH-ON Water Information”, a one-stop-shop, which will help scientists and practitioners spending less time on gathering and arranging data, thus leaving more time for scientific analysis, assessments, production and development.”
2.1.1 The SWITCH-ON portal
The SWITCH-ON projected was managed using an agile and incremental approach to software development, research and exploitation of results. The SWITCH-ON web portal (Fig. 3) was the main tool throughout the project to communicate progress, both internally and externally. The project was successively and fast advancing under the slogan “What isn’t on the portal doesn’t exist”. The landing page of the SWITCH-ON portal has six clickable tiles; the first leads to a more conventional and descriptive project web page, while the others are directly addressing external users of the tools and products developed during the project.
Figure 3. The landing page of the SWITCH-ON web portal with its clickable tiles.
2.1.2 The Spatial Information Platform and linked tools
SWITCH-ON aims at exploiting the untapped potential of open data in the water sector by ‘re-purposing’. To achieve this, relevant open datasets should be found in the first place, used and changed (‘value added’) and shared with the world again to enhance water information in society and advance hydrological scientific work. In order to do this, certain software tools had to be developed. The backbone is the Spatial Information Platform (SIP), which is a catalogue where data can be searched for by using free text, keywords or geospatial extent. The search method can be used separately, or be combined for a more restricted result. It consists of linked software components and includes the following operational services (Fig. 4):
• SIP Backend database: PostgreSQL/PostGIS Database with an extended data model compliant with the ISO-19115 metadata standard. Contains meta-data for some 8000 datasets including keywords based on an extended CUAHSI community keyword list (Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc.), the INSPIRE topics list and more than 5.700.000 polygons for fine grained geospatial search.
• Data repository based on Subversion (SVN) for datasets produced within the project.
• SIP Admin/Expert (desktop) tool for meta-data administration and correction including advanced GIS functionality. (login required)
• SIP REST-service: Machine-to-machine readable interfaces (REST-services) for sharing the dataset catalogue. This service is used by all the components of the SIP.
• BYOD Open Data Search Tool: Easy-to-use online tool (Browse Your Open Data) for searching and accessing open datasets data with relevance to water science in Europe.
• GEOSS/ISO-19115-compliant meta-data profile: Meta-data profile for scientific datasets available in the ODR tool that reduces the effort of creating and maintaining metadata.
• Open Data Registration Tool (ODR): Online web-based wizard tool that allows scientists to define meta-data and specify an existing URL to the dataset or upload it.
• Open Data Upload Tool (is triggered from Open Data Registration Tool) which allows scientists to upload the actual dataset to a storage facility and receive a DOI.
All code behind the software is open source, and documentation and specifications are publicly available at https://github.com/switchonproject/.
Upload Data and Metadata
Figure 4: Main Components of the SWITCH-ON Spatial Information Platform (SIP).
Linked to the SIP a number of tools were developed to meet with user needs:
• BYOD - Browse to Your Open Datasets is a user-friendly interface for searching, finding and browsing open datasets. This web-based tool enables the user to construct a search query on relevant (combinations of) meta-data characteristics like: keyword, free text, geospatial information (bounding box, country or precise polygon) to look for required open datasets. Moreover, the user can display the search results and inspect metadata of the datasets found, preview and/or download them. Search results are available in List or Map View. In List-view the meta-data details are shown, in Map-view the overall spatial extent or, if available, individual points and polygons of that dataset are visualised. Users can also post-filter the resources found based by (de)selecting certain metadata characteristics.
• Open Data Registration Tool which enables the user to specify the required parts (based on the GEOSS/ISO 19115 metadata standard) of the corresponding meta-data of the open dataset. The tool guides the user in a wizard style consisting of a limited number of steps (5). The specified meta-data is sent to the meta-data repository of SWITCH-ON in order to be found by the BYOD search tool. The Open Data Registration (ODR) tool seamlessly integrates with the data upload tool.
• Data Upload Tool forms the last step of registration process. Depending on the type of dataset it will be automatically uploaded to either the SVN repository, to a THREDDS server (in case of a NetCDF file) and if the dataset contains a reference to a spatial extent (e.g. a SHP file), this spatial extent will be sent to a GeoServer in order to be used in the BYOD in spatial searches and for displaying the individual points and polygons of the dataset when an dataset is displayed.
All tools have been extended to work with (showing and/or generating) Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). If the user decides to request a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for his newly uploaded dataset, data and meta-data are also sent to the Zenodo API. Thus, data and meta-data are also available in the Zenodo catalogue and the OpenAIRE platform. Another exporting functionality of (mainly) the open data references catalogue of the SIP is the option to share this with other data portals. The catalogue is harvestable, and as such, GEOSS have been accessing this catalogue (machine-to-machine) for incorporating the SWITCH-ON collection of datasets. Data and Meta-Data stored in the Data- and Meta-Data Repositories can be accessed by the BYOD Tools via the respective APIs.
2.1.3 Agile development
IT is present throughout the SWITCH ON project. For example: initially, the solution for the search and download tool was based on existing IT components from the consortium members. While testing this tool with non-IT experts, we discovered that this tool was too complex and we started from scratch again. We undertook an organised, iterative development approach using user-stories (from real end users), drawing GUI mock-ups, small development cycles and frequent two-way communication, to deliver a second version. This latter version turned out to be easy-to-use for non-IT experts and matched expectations of both end users and the developers. Since this approach worked smoothly for the products developed in the early stages of the SWITCH-ON project, we decided to apply this approach for all other (tool) developments from that moment onwards, using the following procedure containing user-story driven development and interactive sessions..
User-story driven development: Real-life user cases from scientist searching for (open) data were the basis for development of the tool(s). Use cases were turned into several user stories focusing on one aspect of the tool to be developed. In joint sessions the user stories were refined, sharpened, negotiated, prioritised and agreed before the actual coding was done. Once agreed, the developers delivered GUI mock-ups (for verification and detailed discussion about the desired functionality) and actual working software with one aspect at the time. All the implemented user stories can be checked in the following link: https://github.com/issues.
Interactive sessions: Small groups of end users (scientists) and developers had interactive Skype sessions to demo, test and discuss the user stories and/or share screens discussing the outcomes of the tests. Furthermore, all relevant user stories, comments, notes, remarks, outcomes etc. were posted in the Github environment ensuring everything was stored properly. Github acted as a forum for discussion between the developers and end-users about the user stories and as a source code repository. At the same time GitHub acted as the product backlog (aspects to be developed later, other user-stories) and issues and bugs found during testing.
2.1.4 Metadata content of the SIP
The SWITCH-ON catalogue is filled with more than 800 metadata references (to more than 8000 datasets) from various data providers world-wide. The catalogue primarily contains hydrological and meteorological resources, but hydrologically relevant data from other scientific fields, such as biology, geology, and society, is also available. Geospatially, the majority of the datasets is found within the European continent or with global coverage. The data providers are organizations, governmental agencies, institutes, and universities, such as: EEA, ESA, USGS, JRC, etc. Some data also originates from the experiments and products within the SWITCH-ON project. The datasets represent a variety of scientific domains, geographical domains, licences and acquisition Methods (Fig. 5). More information about the scientific domains, spatial distribution, licenses and acquisition methods can be found under the ‘About’ button in the BYOD tool.
Figure 5. Characteristics of the >800 datasets in the SIP metadata catalogue.
2.1.5 New open data in the SIP from SWITCH-ON scientific work
A range of new data sets were produced in SWITCH-ON, mainly in the collaborative scientific experiments. These new data sets can be categorised according to the spatial scale they cover (Table 1). The spatial scale of the individual new data sets largely determines their different utilities for further use. Briefly, while local scale data provide very detailed information about hydrological processes and dynamics at individual locations they were generated for, regional and continental scale data provide less detail. However, in a trade-off, they allow insights into larger-scale contexts and, importantly, into local differences and thus spatial patterns. All datasets is searchable with metadata in the SIP, have a DOI and is released under the Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) except from the Nightlights, which are only open for research.
Table 1. Character of some of the 70 new open datasets from re-purposing within SWITCH-ON scientific work.
Data type No Datasets Data type Resolution
Local Root zone storage capacities (water balance)
(3 field-sites in USA) 3 time-series lumped
Root zone storage capacities (dynamic modelling)
(3 field-sites in USA) 3 Averages, metrics lumped
Snow dynamics and meteorological data
(Kühtai station ) 1 time-series lumped
Regional Nightlights (Eastern Alps)
4 Raster, time-series 30 arc second
Seasonal river flow (impact from climate and hydropower; Sweden) 2 time-series lumped +
Continental (pan-European) Identified flood peaks 1 time-series 1235 stations
Flood changes in Europe 1 time-series 629 catchments
Delineated catchments 5 shape file 35 500 catchments
Geology in catchments 1 text file, shape file 35 500 catchments
Topography in catchments 1 text file, shape file 35 500 catchments
Climate in catchments 3 time-series 35 500 catchments
River-gauge locations 3 shape files 1366 stations
Land-use in catchments 3 Excell, shape files 35 500 catchments
Nutrient emissions in catchments 1 Excell, shape files 35 500 catchments
River flow in catchments 3 time-series, shape file 35 500 catchments
Soil types in catchments 3 Excell, shape files 35 500 catchments
Flow signatures at flow gauges 1 text file, shape file 1366 stations
Solar Index for estimation of potential evaporation 12 raster data 1 km grid
The new datasets produced in SWITCH-ON are modelled data, trying to fill the gaps from lack of observed data for scientific and societal needs. However, observed data are the core for our understanding of natural systems. In environmental sciences and the associated engineering disciplines, various sources of observations are of critical importance, as detailed theoretical and mechanistic descriptions of larger-scale natural systems cannot be readily up-scaled and generalized due to the inherent natural heterogeneity in these systems. It will never be possible to monitor everything and everywhere, but the more observation that are available the better the quality of the modelled data and information. Below follows a discussion on most urgent needs of observed data.
In hydrology and other water related sciences, detailed data on the water balance of a specific region of interest is required for applications in that region. Most importantly, such data include time series of precipitation and river flow, which are the largest water fluxes in many terrestrial hydrological systems in Europe. While precipitation time series for the entire continent, mostly as remote sensing products, are available and often freely accessible, river flow data are a good example of data that are only in principle available for many locations in Europe. Yet, due to protective behaviour of data producers, these data often remain inaccessible to other users; particularly those located in countries other than the data producers’ countries. Another very important source of data of major importance in hydrology is water-management information, which is sometimes available on the global scale but often at very poor quality (Arheimer et al., 2017). For such data that are available in principle, more efficient European-wide data access policies need to be developed and implemented to foster and support scientific institutions’ efforts to address climate change and population-pressure related challenges.
A different type of data gap are water-related data that are scarce and thus rarely available, but would contribute significantly to develop a better understanding of the water cycle in general, its spatial differences, as well as the involved and resulting hydrological processes, such as floods, but also large-scale issues such as climate change. Such data that are neither available nor accessible but which would be of high value include, ideally European-wide, dense networks for the observation of evaporation, which is the second dominant flux leaving terrestrial hydrological system. These data would help to meaningfully close the water balance of individual systems, thereby having the potential to reduce the uncertainties involved in any type of hydrological application and to develop a better understanding of land-atmosphere exchanges, which have considerable influence on atmospheric circulation pattern and eventually on climate change.
In addition, systematic observations of the chemical composition of different waters, such as precipitation, river flow, ground water, soil water or ocean water, at high spatial and temporal resolutions are essentially unavailable at this point, except for a few experimental sites (e.g. Kirchner and Neal, 2013). Such data are of critical importance for the understanding of solute transport and thus for sustainable, effective and efficient water quality management, including pollution protection, mitigation and remediation strategies and measures.
2.2 Virtual Water-Science Laboratory and comparative science
Original goal: “A virtual water-science laboratory will be implemented, which consists of open data, dedicated software tools and a set of protocols, hosted at the “SWITCH-ON water information” portal. It seamlessly integrates the open data with harmonised modelling tools and facilities the performance of virtual experiments of comparative science. Comparative science is a new form of research, which will advance science by contrasting water related processes in different environments and help understand complex processes in a more holistic way than individual studies.”
2.2.1 The Virtual Water-Science Laboratory
To allow water-science to play a credible role in informing public policy and water managers, trust in the hydrological science community is essential, and for this transparency is needed. Transparency and reproducibility is fundamental principles in scientific research. However, in hydrology as well as in other computational¬-heavy disciplines, the code and data that actually produces published results are not regularly made available. This situation hinders both the ability of the broader community to learn from, and build on, previous work, and importantly, verify previous findings. To help move toward reproducible computational hydrology, the SWITCH-ON scientists identified the standards and infrastructures to be adopted (Hutton et al., 2016, and Fig. 6).
Motivated by a desire to overcome the scientific problem with reproducibility and traditional isolation of water scientists by means of a virtual and efficient meeting and working place, the SWITCH-ON Virtual Water Science Laboratory (VWSL, http://www.switch-on-vwsl.eu/) is an online platform that streamlines international and online collaboration. Through the development of agreed protocols (a carefully detailed plan for a scientific experiment), the VWSL facilitates the sharing of ideas, procedures, data, models and any other relevant supporting information, thus allowing experiments on a common basis of open data and well-defined procedures. Experiments can be extended to cover more data, models and ideas to advance in comparative hydrology. Scientists can exchange knowledge with other research groups early in the discovery process to add to openness and transparency in computational experiments.
Figure 6. Schematic figure of steps required leading to reproducible computational hydrology and Open Science (from Hutton et al., 2016).
Along with the convenience of the platform, the transparency, consistency, and open access ensured by the VWSL engender three key benefits:
• ¬Cooperation around the world – helps connect scientists around the world to collaborate and perform comparative analyses, accelerating scientific advances.
• Reproducibility of experiments – enables thorough review of a large variety of numerical experiments, a foundational principle in scientific research.
• New forms of scientific research – new ideas are elaborated using ‘living’ online protocols, allowing large teams of colleagues to share data, tools, models, etc. in Open Science.
The website of the SWITCH-ON VWSL has evolved its shape throughout the project, which is now based on three main stages concerning the definition (DEFINE tile), the participation (PARTICIPATE tile) and the repetition (REVIEW OR REPEAT tile) of hydrological experiments. Visitors can choose to Define, Participate or Review experiments by clicking the start buttons. Anyone can create and view protocols. During the work process, the protocol is moved from one view to another as the experiment evolves from idea, to on-going, to be completed with publications (Fig. 7). The VWSL also gives access to useful tools for running computational experiments.
The infrastructure supports well-documented work flows for transparency and several tools for:
• Searching for open data with relevance for water research.
• Allowing scientists to launch new ideas for immediate feedback and networking opportunities worldwide.
• Documenting procedures in experiment protocols to ensure reproducibility and transparency in computational experiments.
• Allowing incremental forms of research through dynamic living protocols.
• Accessing source codes, scripts and data used in experiments.
• Sharing tailored data for comparative catchment analysis on a pan-European level.
• Publishing/sharing research result data in repositories.
• Direct links to practical applications to promote quality assurance in science.
All tools mentioned in Section 2.1 are fundamental corner stones of the VWSL. However, in addition to the SIP and its linked GUIs and upload tools, with content of metadata and new datasets (see above), a special tool was designed especially to facilitate the living protocols of the Lab:
• Protocol Tool which enables the scientist to store, edit, share and publish the detailed plan of a new (set of) experiment(s). This web-tool focuses on (water domain) scientists who are in the process of defining new experiments, would like to participate in defining new research or would like to review or repeat completed research and use the protocol as a basis.
When ending the project, we have the following content in the VWSL:
• 141 visitors per month, from 52 different countries, encompassing 33 different universities/institutes;
• 7 ongoing experiments, of which 5 are completed with 6 published papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals;
• 56 scientists from 16 different countries involved in experiments with protocols in the lab.
Figure 7. Overview of the different stages of the SWITCH-ON Virtual Water Science Laboratory, illustrating sharing new ideas (define), cooperation (participate), reproducibility (review) in this new form of research.
2.2.2 Scientific experiments in the Virtual Water-Science Laboratory
During the project 12 collaborative experiments were performed in the VWSL (Table 2), each one following a unique and living protocol. The scientific goal was to find new understanding of floods, droughts, water status and environmental and societal systems under changing conditions across Europe. The SWITCH-ON experiments were purely computational using a variety of numerical models, toolboxes or libraries. The experiments resulted in 73 new open datasets (see section 2.1.5) 27 new scripts for sharing of code and 15 scientific papers, presenting the findings in well-recognised international journals. The new scripts were mainly used for data manipulation, such as: clustering, comparison, correlation, data selection and pre-processing, evaluation, image processing and pattern recognition, sampling, statistics, time series analysis and selection, time series transformation and workflows and batch operations.
Table 2: Collaborative research experiments in SWITCH-ON with protocols in the VWSL.
Experiment Research objective Partners New scripts New papers New datasets
Floods Flood Change
Lead: Juraj Parajka (TU Vienna) To explore and evaluate how floods and their changes cluster in time and space across Europe. 3 5 3 6
Lead: Juraj Parajka (TU Wien) To study whether the timing and magnitude of snowmelt flood events is related to the changes of snow line elevation. 9 1 1 1
Lead: Alberto Montanari (UNIBO) To provide decision makers with updated probabilities of the occurrence of extreme events. 7 1 1 1
Lead: Serena Ceola (UNIBO) To evaluate from nightlights the spatio-temporal evolution of human settlements close to rivers. 2 1 1 5
Lead: Alessio Pugliese (UNIBO) To enhance the accuracy of large-scale runoff simulations with meso-scale hydrological information. 4 3 1 3
Floods and Droughts Spatial Patterns
Lead: Anna Kuentz (SMHI) To explore and understand the physiographical controls on spatial patterns of pan-European flow signatures by taking advantage of large open datasets. 2 4 1 8
Lead: Remko Nijzink (TU Delft) To gain understanding about the added value of the different sources of information (e.g. remote sensing products and analytical approaches) in constraining hydrological models inputs and outputs. 4 5 1 5
Lead: Serena Ceola (UNIBO) Address the key issues of reproducibility and repeatability in hydrological research. 5 1 2 1
WQ Nutrient Estimates
Lead: René Capell (SMHI) To compare model estimates of riverine nitrate concentrations and evaluate the role of available environmental data for model performance. 2 5 1 4
Lead: Chris Hutton (University of Bristol) To gain a comparative understanding of how different models simulate catchment hydrological response to changing environments. These changes are, for example, due to land cover change, or changes in climate forcing. 3 1 1 5
Root Zone Exp.
Lead: Remko Nijzink (TU Delft) To obtain more understanding about the time dynamic character of root zone storage capacities. 4 9 1 6
Lead: Ilias Pechlivanidis (SMHI) To compare seasonal hydrological forecasting skill from a number of hydrological models under different hydro-climatic conditions. 8 1 1 0
2.2.3 New scientific findings in four water-knowledge domains
The new form of water research was applied in four scientific knowledge domains: (i) floods; (ii) drought and water scarcity; (iii) water quality and deterioration; (iv) changing conditions. The scientific experiments performed within the SWITCH-ON project have clearly provided new scientific knowledge and have showed relevant findings in the appointed research fields. The scientific papers from the SWITCH-ON project advanced the understanding in hydrological sciences, as exemplified in the following short messages on key findings below.
126.96.36.199 New understanding of flood generation
Existing studies have been unable to identify consistent patterns of flood regime and their changes across Europe. Here we show that regional patterns of flood regime changes exist and changes in flood types are likely result of changing climate drivers (Jeneiová et al., 2016; Mangini et al. submitted; Hundecha et al., submitted).
Snow melt runoff events are characterized by changes in basin snow coverage, where the fundamental role of elevation of snow line is still partly unexplored. Here we show that the magnitude and timing of snow melt is intimately associated with changes in snow line elevation (Parajka et al., submitted).
Flood forecasting is a fundamental issue both from the hydrological but particularly from the societal perspective, since flood management and preparedness should be improved. Here we show that catchments keep memory of past events through internal state variables and inherent dynamics, thus providing river specific lead-times for decision makers to take actions (Iliopoulou et al., submitted).
188.8.131.52 New understanding of drought and water scarcity
Understanding of human water demand impact on water resources availability is crucial under drought conditions. Here we show that a severe human presence enhancement close to fluvial water bodies can significantly deteriorate drought conditions (Ceola et al., 2016a).
Linking macro-scale models to local observations is crucial when using open data from pan-European modelling. Here we show that flow-durations curves from geostatistical predictions can significantly improve open model data, especially for low-flow regimes and drought conditions (Pugliese et al., submitted).
184.108.40.206 New understanding for predicting floods and droughts
Understanding the physical controls on spatial patterns of flow signatures is an essential step towards better hydrological models and predictions in ungauged catchments. Here we show that spatial variability in river-flow signatures can be explained by physiographic catchment descriptors for most of Europe, allowing a significant improvement in understanding processes behind flow generation (Kuentz et al., 2017).
More extensive use of remotely sensed data should allow better definition of parameter values in hydrological models, which can be applied for drought and flood analysis. Here we show that several combinations of products are more suitable for constraining parameters, and the usefulness depends both on model concept and catchment characteristics (Nijzink et al., submitted).
220.127.116.11 New understanding of water quality and deterioration
Nutrient transport models are important tools for large scale assessments of macro-nutrient fluxes (nitrate, phosphate) and can fill a gap where monitoring data is not available. Here we show that higher spatial resolution using local data in modelling is only relevant with higher observation density, while using coarse open data gives similar parameter uncertainties at sparse monitoring networks (Capell et al., submitted).
18.104.22.168 New understanding of changing environments
Simulating the impacts of land-cover change on hydrological response over larger scales is a key challenge, particularly when considering vegetation changes. Here we show that simple hydrological models, but also more complex models, including the effect of vegetation, can provide reliable results in simulating land-cover change (Hutton et al., submitted).
Understanding the effect of deforestation on root zone storage capacity is essential to separate between runoff and transpiration in the water budget. Here we show that several rainfall-runoff models could capture the different components in the water budget and simulate changes in root zone storage capacity with deforestation, but also the gradual recovery with vegetation recovery (Nijzink et al., 2016).
In Europe, there has been an increasing interest on using seasonal forecasts by users for decision making, yet it is still unclear how the forecasting skill varies geographically, seasonally and with the lead time. Here we show that there is skill (up to 3 months ahead) particularly in central and northern Europe, and is dependent on the basin’s hydrologic regime, i.e. river systems with long memory (base-flow dominated, snow influenced or controlled by lakes/reservoirs) achieve high skill (Pechlivanidis et al. submitted).
Global warming and hydropower regulations are major threats to future fresh-water availability and biodiversity. Here we show that their impact on flow regime over a large landmass result in similar changes, but hydropower is more critical locally and may have potential for climate adaptation in floodplains (Arheimer et al., 2017).
Will a warming climate affect river floods? Here we show clear patterns of changes in flood timing that can be ascribed to climate effects, which include earlier spring snowmelt floods in north-eastern Europe, later winter floods around the North Sea and parts of the Mediterranean coast owing to delayed winter storms, and earlier winter floods in western Europe caused by earlier soil moisture maxima (Blöschl et al., 2017).
Hydrological change is one of the most important research issues in modern hydrology. Here we show a theoretical framework for stationary and non-stationary modeling, in an attempt to provide a unified scheme for the simulation of changing behaviors of hydrological systems (Ceola et al., 2014b).
Streamflow variability is a major determinant of basin-scale distributions of benthic invertebrates. Here we show a novel procedure based on a probabilistic approach aiming at a spatially explicit quantitative assessment of benthic invertebrate abundance as derived from near-bed flow variability (Ceola et al., 2014c).
The human presence close to streams and rivers is known to have consistently increased worldwide, therefore introducing dramatic anthropogenic and environmental changes, but a spatiotemporal detailed analysis is missing to date. Here we show a novel method to quantify the temporal evolution and the spatial distribution of the anthropogenic presence along streams and rivers and in their immediate proximity at the global scale and at a high-spatial resolution (Ceola et al., 2015).
Environmental change is increasingly exerting pressures on hydrological processes and thus on water resources, attracting the growing attention of hydrologists and water resources scientists. Here we show how to address the challenges of adaptation of water resources systems under changing conditions by supporting flexible, resilient and low-regret solutions, coupled with on-going monitoring and evaluation (Ceola et al., 2016b).
In Canada, flood analysis and water resource management, in general, are tasks conducted at the provincial level; therefore, unified national-scale approaches to water-related problems are uncommon. Here we show a national-scale flood risk assessment approach, which provides maps of hazard, exposure and risk (Elshorbagy et al., 2017).
Freshwater resources overexploitation and climate change are major threats to global sustainability and development in the XXI century, but nevertheless a global assessment of water threats evolution in time is still lacking. Here we show that human pressure positively evolved from 1992 to 2013 at the global scale (1.8 % increase per year as a global average), threatening future sustainability worldwide (Ceola et al., submitted).
The management of water resources by means of e.g. flow diversions and dams, for industrial, agricultural, water-supply, hydro-power production and flood protection purposes, induces significant changes to the natural streamflow regime of a river. Here we show a quantitative analysis to assess the effects of two alternative ecological flow scenarios on the (a) existing hydro-power network and (b) habitat suitability of two fish species in two river basins located in Central Italy (Ceola et al., submitted).
2.3 Innovative commercial products and services
Original goal: “SWITCH-ON will develop products and services for environmental management and awareness, by re-purposing open data and using numerical models in new ways to describe the environmental system and it’s variability in space and time. To ensure successful implementation, each product involves a detailed business plans and tight cooperation with appointed end-users. The SMEs and service providers are expected to access new markets, increase their competences and achieve more efficient production as a result of the collaboration within SWITCH- ON, which will stimulate the market as a whole.”
2.3.1 New water-information from 14 SWITCH-ON products
SWITCH-ON has drawn on the principles of Open Innovation to merge hydrological knowledge, new technology and open data into operational products and services, to be developed within either agencies or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). All products have their own websites and target a wide range of users, such as water managers, citizens, commercial companies, and authorities at multiple levels. All SWITCH-ON products, except for one, are web-based services for water management and awareness in four scientific-knowledge domains: (i) floods; (ii) drought and water scarcity; (iii) water quality and deterioration; (iv) changing conditions; and a fifth category, which is customised towards (v) public use.
22.214.171.124 New information for flood awareness and protection
Three products are dedicated to the increasing societal concern of flooding, both to protect from hazards and to optimize hydropower production by estimating potential water recharge to hydropower dams (Fig. 8).
‘FFRM’ (Flash Flood Risk Mapping), (www.waterviewer.com/#Viewer) developed by the SME called HUMER in Austria, is a new 2D based rainfall-runoff model to simulate pluvial floods caused by intense short-duration rainfall events in urban and rural areas. FFRM supports the raising of awareness of citizens and administrative bodies on inundation hazard away from rivers. FFRM can be used in spatial planning and is a vital tool to design adequate protection measures.
‘RiverInfo.eu’ (www.riverinfo.eu) developed by the Swedish national agency SMHI, visualises and delivers river-flow data and forecasts with high resolution across Europe, based on the E-HYPE model.
‘Forecast Broker‘ (http://tl-tc039.xtr.deltares.nl:8080/switchon-catalog/srv/eng/catalog.search#/home login using:archive : archive), (developed by the Dutch national agency DELTARES, stores operational data in a structured way to allow for water flow forecasting, based on the FEWS system.
Figure 8. Examples of information provided from SWITCH-ON products for flood awareness and protection.
126.96.36.199 New information for drought management
Two SWITCH-ON products are dedicated to drought management in the agricultural sector, considering both water availability and demand (Fig. 9).
‘SHIFT’ (SHort-term Irrigation need ForecasT), (mwogo.hkvconsultants.com/shift.ui/#dashboard/1) developed by the SME called HKV in The Netherlands, allows farmers in Africa to make better informed decisions on when and how much to irrigate. SHIFT provides near real time information on rainfall, to reduce the chance that freshly sown seeds or newly applied fertilizer washes away by sudden thunderstorms, as well as a seven day forecast on water availability and water demand. SHIFT contains a module that visualises the rainfall in the last 36 hours. This module is also available in a separate app called RAINSAT for Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia.
‘April’ (gecosistema.com/april) developed by the SME Gecosistema in Italy, is an efficient, easily accessible and user friendly machine learning tool able to predict available river discharge up to 3 months in advance, tailored on specific water users needs.
Figure 9. Examples of information provided from SWITCH-ON products for drought management in agriculture.
188.8.131.52 New information on water-quality issues
Five SWITCH-ON products are dedicated to water-quality issues for managers working locally/regionally according to the Water Framework Directive (WFD), or optimising their operational production based on water-quality status (Fig. 10).
‘wPRISMA’ (switchon.emvis.gr/prisma) and ‘wPOLIS’ (switchon.emvis.gr/polis) developed by the SME called EMVIS in Greece, are both interactive online maps to 1) providing large-scale modeled information about water quality of surface water bodies in order to identify areas or water bodies that experience significant pressures from diffuse and point sources of pollution and 2) for calculating the temporal and spatial variation of emission limit values for specific pollutants in a river basin and facilitate the allocation of new industrial activities wPRISMA and wPOLIS increases the decision-making capacity of competent authorities in water policy implementation, particularly in the absence of local information, by filling in data daps in time and space.
‘DIWADIS‘ (Dimensioning Water °C Distribution’, (demo.hkv.nl/diwadis) developed by the SME called HKV in The Netherlands, is a web-based information system showing the temperature of surface water obtained from satellite observations. The system can display the water temperature in a transect, spatially or as a times series to water managers and decision makers and allow them to manage this important parameter of water quality.
‘NUtrient footPRINT to European coastal waters’ (www.nutrientfootprint.eu) developed by the Dutch national agency DELTARES, visualizes the sources, routing and impact of nutrients leaking from land to surface waters and to sea in Europe using the European hydrological model EHYPE.
‘Eutrophication.se’ (www.eutrophication.eu) developed by the Swedish national agency SMHI, is an analysis and scenario tool to visualises and calculates nutrient status in European water bodies and estimates effects of remedial measures.
Figure 10. Examples of information provided from SWITCH-ON products on water-quality issues.
184.108.40.206 New information on changing water resources
Two SWITCH-ON products are dedicated to water resources vulnerability under global change (Fig. 11). ‘UNCOVER’ (UNiversal COmputer-based Visual Exploration of Risks) (http://shiny.jbahosting.com/uncover/) developed by the SME called JBA in the UK, provides decision makers a web-based tool to visually explore uncertainties relating to their modelling outputs. UNCOVER also provides trade-off analysis options via the Pareto-set principle for setting multiple objectives and identifying near-optimal simulations and their associated parameter sets.
’HyCAW’ (Hydrological Change Adaptation Wizard) (www.hycaw.com) developed by the SME called Gecosistema in Italy, is a climate service developed as a web-wizard to assist water managers in evaluating the monthly reduction of water availability induced by climate and hydrological change. HyCAW leads to an efficient use of resources and to the selection of the best adaptation and mitigation options.
Figure 11. Examples of information provided from SWITCH-ON products on change in water resources.
220.127.116.11 New water information for the public
Two SWITCH-ON products are dedicated to raise awareness and facilitate planning among citizens regarding risks and potentials linked to water amounts (Fig. 12). ‘SafeTrip’ (test.hkv.nl/safetrip/#dashboard/1) developed by the SME called HKV in the Netherlands, provides real time information regarding threats by natural hazards for the current or a specific location all over Europe. The content of the warning is based on existing alerts and warnings per individual type of hazard. Using SafeTrip travellers will not be surprised by these unsafe situations.
‘SHPA’ (Small Hydropower Plants Atlas) (www.hydropower-atlas.com) developed by the SME called Gecosistema in Italy, is a user-friendly web mapping application that provides essential information and indicators for small hydropower plant feasibility and development at pan EU level.
Figure 12. Examples of information provided from SWITCH-ON products for citizens’ planning.
2.3.2 Developing the commercial water-information products
The ambition with each of the 14 water-information products in SWITCH-ON is to refine open data with new science and technology into a value that someone find worth paying for. Incorporating the agile product development approach, multidisciplinary collaboration and knowledge brokering principles has allowed SWITCH-ON to ensure a user-centric focus in its activities. The strategy has been successful and all products but four, already have paying customers and negotiations are underway with further potential clients even before the project has come to an end (Table 3). Customers are either paying for subscription of data or use the products as integrated components in projects. Currently, there are in total 22 paying customers and 15 projects benefiting from the SWITCH-ON products.
Table 3. SWITCH-ON water information products based on Open Data and their paying customers.
Product & Owner (SME/ Agency) Description Paying customer, country code Type of Client
(HUMER) Identifies flash flood prone areas and associated potential damages. St. Marien (2 versions), AT
Neuhofen an der Krems, AT
Wartberg an der Krems, AT
Leonding , AT Municipality
(HYPE Data Delivery)
Visualises and delivers river-flow data and forecasts with high resolution across Europe.
Maritime Institute in Gdańsk, PL
Statkraft, multinational (including several daughter companies)
JBA, UK National government agency National government agency
National government agency National government agency
Engineering Consultant company
Floods Forecast Broker
(DELTARES) Stores operational data in a structured way to allow for water flow forecasting. Bureau of Meteorology, Australia
Bonneville Power Admin., USA
Tennessee Valley Authority, USA
Agenzia regionale per la protezione ambientale, IT
Rijkswaterstaat, NL National water authority
Hydro Power company
Hydro Power company
Regional water authority
National water authority
(HKV) Forecasts irrigation water availability for irrigation and demand by crops. Agricane, Malawi
Partners for Water, Ethiopia Agricultural Engineering and Development company, Dutch Government Agency
APRIL (GECOS) Optimises regional irrigation supply by providing seasonal discharge forecasts and water demand. Romagna Acque Società delle Fonti Spa (IT) Water utility
Water Quality wPRISMA
(EMVIS) Online map of surface water quality and pollutants to identify hot spots. Special Secretariat for Water (project under discussion) Public authority
(EMVIS) Interactive map to calculate Emission Limit Values of water pollutants to guide new industrial exploitation. None yet
DIWADIS (HKV) Maps detailed spatial and temporal information on water temperature. None yet
(DELTARES) Visualises the source and route of nutrients in European coastal waters. None yet
(SMHI) Visualises and calculates nutrient status in European water bodies. Ålands Landskapsregering, FI
The Environment Agency, UK Regional water authority
National government agency
(JBA) Integrated catchment management tool for analysing trade-offs and risk. Environment Agency, UK
Rivers Trust, UK National government agency
HyCAW (GECOS) Shows changes in temporal and total water resources from climate change. None yet
Public SafeTrip (HKV) Informs travellers and tourists about weather and natural hazards during their trip. 1092 free downloads from the stores, multinational Citizens
SHPA (GECOS) Optimises site selection for small hydropower plants. AREN Electric Power S.p.A IT Land owners, small-size hydropower-plant managers
Conventional project planning and product development is characterized by a linear series of steps
from definition to deployment. SWITCH-ON went beyond this and used an agile development approach based on multiple feedback loops with parallel development of the product and business strategy (Fig. 13). This enabled a more flexible, focussed and incremental style of development with reduced planning and response time, opening for user feedback and corrections and potential business opportunities. This means that the SWITCH-ON products and services are the combination of numerous small and ‘minimal’ iterations, significant enough to be “marketable”, and open for opinions, adjustments and adaptations.
Figure 13. The SWITCH-ON agile approach with multiple iterations for development both of products and business plans
The SWITCH-ON products are innovative in combining new methods, external production systems, new environmental data and quality evaluation schemes. The product developers within SWITCH-ON have used some common features in the development process during the evolution of their products:
• Incorporating scientific methods into products, by direct collaboration with the SWITCH-ON scientists, as a process within product development itself, or with the application of scientific methods that were developed outside the SWITCH-ON project.
• Unique production environments to produce, process, and present data, thus undesirable dependencies and competition between products were prevented.
• Experimental visualisation techniques designed for each user group, regarding the new environmental data (downloadable data series, graphical representations, web mapping visual illustrations). In SWITCH-ON there was space to freely explore and develop the functionalities of their products and there were benefits for the end-users who were able to obtain inter alia, processed environmental information.
• Quality evaluation methods tailored for the type of data used and produced, models incorporated or functionalities. Quality evaluation is recognised as a dynamic process that is required when developing a product in order to continuously improve its level of confidence.
• User interaction was a substantial part for feedback on usefulness of the products and data quality evaluation through consultation processes that were implemented in the framework of SWITCH-ON.
Within the SWITCH-ON project, SMEs and product owners have pitched the new products to potential customers in new markets. New markets are either represented by a different geographical area or by a different domain from which the products originally were originally developed. It was found out that despite the wealth of open data now available across Europe, many challenges still remain in order to find paying customers in new markets. Despite obvious obstacles such as language and culture, there are other things which influence how marketable products are. For instance, they need to match the needs of the customer, provide results with acceptable quality, have an intuitive and attractive functionality/appearance, work in the IT environment of the customer, and have an attractive price, etc. In addition, when marketing the product, the way the demonstration itself is carried out can influence the result, e.g. some customers value a physical meeting whereas others prefer an online demonstration. The challenges of marketing products to customers in new markets should not be underestimated, but the frequent regular meetings with potential customers in SWITCH-ON gradually lead to increased market awareness among the SMEs involved. The process also gave valuable feedback to product development, leading to products which are more easily marketable to different domains and geographical areas.
2.4 SWITCH-ON products for business and governance to achieve societal impact
Original goal: “SWITCH-ON will enhance the communication of businesses, policy-makers, citizens across Europe, by fostering the sharing and uptake of open data information. The SWITCH-ON project will advance market exploitation of available tools and services and develop new ones. It will empower citizens and stakeholders to broaden their participation in bottom-up planning and decision processes, in line with Europe’s smart growth and environmental objectives.”
2.4.1 The SWITCH-ON Market Analysis Framework
European-level open data policies have been put in place to, among other things, stimulate the growth of SMEs in Europe. As more data become openly available, service providers across the European Union (EU) can develop new products and services and attract paying customers in new markets. The Open Data Institute (ODI) has estimated that open data contributes 0.5% of GDP each year, a significant boost to any economy. However, many SMEs across Europe are unfamiliar with the methods of locating paying customers in new markets, which is a limiting factor on the possible economic growth facilitated by open data.
SWITCH-ON developed a Market Analysis Framework (MAF) to provide insight and help product owners on their road to market and eventually closing deals with paying customers. The MAF consist of a set of market analysis and business strategy tools with the purpose of endorsing product developers within and beyond the project with the ability to make successful business decisions. The MAF was tested and validated and helped the product owners to assess the attractiveness of different market segments. Furthermore, it has allowed appropriate strategies for the commercialisation of their products and services.
The MAF helps product developers to identify and analyse target markets for their innovations, ensuring that a clear market need exists, facilitating strategic communication with the target group, and enabling the selection of a suitable business model. The framework provides the basis for co-creation and demand-driven innovation that can ultimately result in better products and services. The Framework is structured into two main parts (Fig. 14). Part I helps users to outline and understand the external conditions that influence markets (e.g. economic, social, and political forces), while Part II introduces tools to identify business opportunities and threats, and evaluate the business potential of specific target groups.
Part I: Defining the market and gathering initial intelligence: Defining the market is important and in SWITCH-ON we used the PESTEL analysis methodology to assess the overall market potential, providing a complete example of a market intelligence exercise. As shown in Figure 14, the overall market identified for SWITCH-ON and its products and services was defined as the market for “Water-Information Products and Services”. The aim of PESTEL analyses is to help identify external opportunities and threats driven by political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal factors.
Figure 14: The step-wise approach, which was followed in the SWITCH-ON project for market analysis.
The PESTEL analysis conducted within SWITCH-ON showed that:
• The high level of regulation on the EU water sector, with its clear standards protecting the quantity and quality of European waters and promoting the re-use of public environmental data, can create demand for new tools to assist monitoring, compliance, and reporting.
• Political action at the EU level has been considerable in recent years and has prioritized safeguarding Europe’s water resources and promoting the use of open data.
• Economic forecasts suggest that, together with the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, the water sector in Europe will be a large driver of economic growth in the coming years.
• Eurobarometer surveys show that most European citizens think protecting the environment is important and feel they are directly affected by environmental problems. Consequently, demand for information products and services that help to democratise water quality and quantity data could emerge.
• The European water sector is characterised by fragmented solutions and insufficient interoperability across national and international data and information systems. Hence, technology plays an increasingly important role in the sector, with clear opportunities for appliances, systems and methods that harmonise and collaboratively use water-related data.
• Europe is already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of extreme rainfall and temperatures, which are projected to increase. These challenges are already driving demand for better tools to increase resilience, facilitate adaptation to climate change, and use and manage water resources efficiently.
• The recession has placed limits on the public budgets of Member States and local authorities, which could slow uptake of water resource management innovations.
• The inherent complexity of the water sector and the significant role of non-domestic consumers (e.g. agriculture, energy producers, and the manufacturing industry) make it difficult to predict the extent to which societal changes could translate into new market opportunities.
Part II: Tools to segment the market and analyse the segments: Using the PESTEL analysis results as a backdrop, the market under scrutiny can be divided into specific segments (i.e. groups of actual and potential customers aggregated based on similarities in their wants and needs, geographic location, or socio-demographic profile). These market segments can then be examined from the viewpoint of the individual organisation that supplies the product or service. Therefore, Part II of the MAF presents an easy-to-use, step-wise approach to collecting and analysing key information on individual market segments. It empowers product developers by providing a wide set of tools to critically evaluate the attractiveness of a business opportunity. The output can be used to prepare business plans and other strategy documents.
Applying the MAF yielded clearly defined target groups for each of the 14 products and services being developed in SWITCH-ON. It also laid the groundwork for selecting appropriate business models and elaborating customer-oriented marketing communication strategies. For each of the products:
• A primary target group and a key growth opportunity were identified. The former was the main focus of study for the rest of the MAF application; the latter was regarded as an opportunity for market expansion at later stages.
• A communication strategy was developed based on the communication goal and target group identified.
• A SWOT analysis was conducted to recognise the main strengths and weaknesses of the assessed product as well as any internal and external challenges and opportunities.
• The competitiveness of the products was analysed.
Finally, the MAF application was concluded by selecting a business model and preparing a business model canvas. These exercises helped to put the information gathered throughout the MAF process into action and to shed light on the sensitivity of a selected business model to changes in pricing.
2.4.2 Products alignment with policies for societal impact
The 14 SWITCH-ON products and services are closely related to the European Environmental Directives and can contribute to their implementation. Given SWITCH-ON’s water focus, this especially applies to the Water Framework Directive (Table 4). Public sector clients are important to the SWITCH-ON products and services, and new potential may arise from further alignment with these Environmental Directives into new contexts. For instance, the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015), set target for a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable world by 2030. At the heart of this Agenda are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the products in SWITCH-ON support at least eight of these goals, which can thus expand the market of the products into the UN member countries aligned with Agenda 2030.
The capabilities of the SWITCH-ON products and services and their relation to European regulation and global sustainability policy are wide ranging and suggest a great deal of potential (Table 4). Further possibilities for applications will emerge as these 14 products continue to develop and be taken up by end users and paying customers. This should provide further insights to the discussion on how to identify the most useful datasets to release, and how to promote the development of products and services that support the integration of policy to improve the efficiency of public administration.
Table 4. The SWITCH-ON product and services and their links to EU policy and the Sustainable Development Goals.
SWITCH-ON Product/Service Description EU policy addressed UNs SDGs addressed
Floods FFRM – Flash Flood Risk Map
Identifies flash flood prone areas and associated potential damages. Floods Directive, INSPIRE Directive
Visualises and delivers river-flow data and forecasts with high resolution across Europe. Water Framework Directive
Stores operational data in a structured way to allow for water flow forecasting. Water Framework Directive
Forecasts irrigation water availability for irrigation and demand by crops. Water Framework Directive, EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
Optimises regional irrigation supply by providing seasonal discharge forecasts and water demand. Water Framework Directive
Water Quality wPRISMA
Online map of surface water quality and pollutants to identify hot spots. Environmental Quality Standards Directive, INSPIRE Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Interactive map tool to calculate Emission Limit Values of water pollutants guide new industrial exploitation. Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Maps detailed spatial and temporal information on water temperature. Water Framework Directive
Visualises the source and route of nutrients in European coastal waters. Nitrates Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Visualises and calculates nutrient status in European water bodies. Nitrates Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Integrated catchment management tool for analysing trade-offs and risk. Water Framework Directive , Floods Directive
Shows changes in temporal and total water resources from climate change Water Framework Directive, Europe 2020 Growth Strategy
Informs travellers and tourists about weather and natural hazards during their trip EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
Optimises site selection for small hydropower plants Water Framework Directive, EU Climate and Energy Package, Clean Energy Strategies
1.1.1 Knowledge Brokering
Knowledge brokering with potential end-users during workshops increased understanding of the potentials of SWITCH-ON products for new markets and provided feedbacks of user requirements. With regard to the products, the potential users specifically highlighted the need to provide information that makes it possible to understand limitations and uncertainties of provided information. Another request concerned access to include simple functions for importing data and to export results to spread sheets or GIS-layers. Many potential users did also focus on the scale issue, stressing the need to ensure that the resolution of information provided by products and services corresponds to user needs. As long as these requirements could be fulfilled, there was not hesitance among the potential users to use products and services developed in other parts of Europe than in the region where it is going to be applied.
With regard to the VWSL, the conclusion from both knowledge brokering events with the geoscience community and a with a broader environmental science domain was that the VWSL has a strong potential to help build collaboration, improve transparency in hydrological science and facilitate a shift towards open, reproducible science. Also for the broader scientific domain it was perceived as an excellent inspirational example. Specific needs for other scientific fields than water might, however, be different and it was make clear that “one size does not fit all”. For other sciences, which base their research on for instance qualitative, context related data or inclusion of citizen science, new appropriate functions have to be incorporated. Including everything in one virtual science lab, might risk that the final product become rather complex and so full of compromises that it eventually not becomes really useful for anyone.
2.5 Cross-cutting goal of SWITCH-ON: Value adding
Original goal: SWITCH-ON will use the European expertise of the water community to establish a collaborative process for systematically refining open data to higher value. By sharing tailored data, knowledge, development efforts and operational production across Europe, SWITCH-ON will re-purpose the data into many different customized products and decision-support tools. This will mobilise the use of environmental data and information among citizens, scientists and entrepreneurs along the information value ladder. The project will focus on water and is expected to inspire a much broader environmental and societal knowledge domain and different end-users.
2.5.1 Value adding by new data from scientists
Different data and types of data do each carry a different information content and can thus serve for a wide variety of purposes to eventually generate overall societal benefit following a range of different approaches. This section describes a structured approach of how new data sets can generate added value for water-related problems, with the aim of making the immediate value and relevance of new data to address these problems easier to understand.
For a meaningful classification, it is important to first acknowledge that new data can be valuable at a hierarchy of different spatial scales, serving different target groups of stakeholders and eventual beneficiaries. Similarly, the utility of new data also needs to be distinguished according to their four respective types of re-use, either direct operational use or indirect operational use via improving the science behind our understanding of the underlying processes, as illustrated by the conceptualization in Figure 15. The platform provided by the SWITCH-ON VWSL is intentionally designed in a way so as to serve the distinct, but complementary requirements of both, direct operational and indirect (via scientific use) re-use of new open data at all spatial scales of interest. Four different major types of new data re-use are distinguished, either falling in the group of operational or in the group of scientific use.
• The operational use is the overarching objective of generating and making available new open data. The term is here defined as the actual use of new open data by a wide spectrum of stakeholders for a wide variety of potential applications, which can and should ideally and eventually result in some sort of societal benefit. In the operational use, these new open data are typically used in a direct way to generate the desired output. This is in contrast to the use of new open data for scientific purposes, where societal benefit can be generated in an indirect way via improving the science/knowledge underlying new open data and thus by improving these new open data themselves before using them operationally.
• Scientific use constitutes the second type new open data re-use. In contrast to the direct operational use, new open data are here used to improve the scientific understanding and the scientific basis of new open data. It can therefore be seen as an intermediate step, that increases the general utility and reliability of new open data before using them in a direct application, thereby indirectly generating societal benefit as illustrated in Figure 15.
Figure 15: Schematic figure of how value can be added to open data through science for societal benefit, either directly in the scientific workflow or indirectly by improving confidence and the underlying scientific knowledge.
The spatial scale at which new data are available provides the principle distinction characteristic, as it constrains potential re-uses and, in particular, defines the relevant stakeholders involved and beneficiaries affected, which can be significantly different. Briefly, hierarchically moving in spatial scale from local, where the re-use of new open data can have immediate, direct and very tangible effects even for individuals, to larger scales, the new data re-use becomes more abstract as it shifts towards the development of political and management strategies, eventually effecting societies as a whole and on long-time scales rather than individual or smaller groups of people. SWITCH-ON has worked on local, regional and continental scales.
New open data on all three scales of interest can serve a wide spectrum of applications. Largely differing in the stakeholders involved and thus in the groups of people actively making use of the new data and those eventually benefitting from these applications, all different types of re-use of new open data can and should, either directly or indirectly, result in applications that lead to societal benefit in one way or another.
2.5.2 Value adding from using new science in product development
SWITCH-ON promotes open access to scientific data. Open access in combination with a collaborative science process has a positive impact on research integrity, repeatability but also the usefulness of the results. However, due to the vastly different time-cycles of research and product development the knowledge circulation is challenging. Moving to open science is indeed a systemic change in the way experiments are done. Even with open science and early sharing of experiment ideas, it is difficult to make sure that the scientific work relates to needs of product developers and be able to use the scientific work in the products. A more approachable way was to involve the science partners in a coupled co-creation processes, not only as producers of knowledge, models and scientific data but also in the role of "knowledge consultants" for product developers. For instance, some of the SWITCH-ON products are based on state of the art modelling algorithms. Here, research-partners and product developers have combined their knowledge to find working solutions.
In SWITCH-ON, the science partners adopted three global trends: open access, open source and digital collaboration tools. This has allowed product developers to access and refine model software developed by research partners and adapt them to their particular product idea. The use of cloud-based collaboration tools such as google docs and online meeting systems, such as skype, accelerated the co-creation processes in SWITCH-ON and supported open innovation. In SWITCH-ON, several ways of incorporating scientific methods into products were tested (Fig. 16):
• The SWITCH-ON science partners have worked actively with science questions for specific products, whereas through this direct collaboration it was feasible to overcome the cultural barriers between science and product development. More specifically the Nightlights and GEEHP-kriging experiments were used in the SHPA product, while there was a strong interaction between the Nutrient estimates experiment and the product UNCOVER.
• Many products have been based on hydrological models of the science partners. Notably, the E-HYPE hydrological model provides a foundation for seven (7) products and the FLEXtopo model is used in one product. The E-HYPE model was also used in some of the science experiments (GEEHP-kriging experiment, Nutrient estimates, Rainfall-runoff model) and this beneficial interaction for E-HYPE was in favour of specific products (wPRISMA, wPOLIS, Riverinfo.eu Eutrophication.eu SHPA, HyCAW, NUTPRINT, UNCOVER).
• Several SMEs have their own scientific competence and have been able to develop new models and algorithms for their products.
• Scientific methods that were developed outside the SWITCH-ON project (water science, computer science etc.) were also used in many of the products.
Figure 16. Four ways to incorporate new scientific methods and scientific knowledge into SWITCH-ON products.
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Capell, R., Hankin, B., Strömqvist, J., Lamb, B. and Arheimer, B. Estimating riverine nutrient concentrations in agricultural catchments - Do we reduce uncertainty by using local scale data? (Scientific article in preparation for submission to Biogeosciences).
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Ceola, S., Laio, F. and Montanari, A. Global-scale human pressure evolution imprints on sustainability of water resources, (scientific article in preparation for submission to PNAS).
Ceola, S., Pugliese, A., Ventura, M., Galeati, G., Montanari, A and Castellarin, A. Hydro-power and fish habitat suitability: impact and effectiveness of ecological flow prescriptions, (under review in Advances in Water Research)
Elshorbagy, A., Raja, B., Lakhanpal, A., Ceola, S., Montanari, A. and Lindenschmidt, K.E. 2017, Topography- and nightlight-based national flood risk assessment in Canada, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 2219–2232, doi:10.5194/hess-21-2219-2017
Hundecha, Y., Parajka, J. and Viglione, A. Flood type classification and assessment of their past changes across Europe (submitted to Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, under review in Discussion 10.5194/hess-2017-356).
Hutton, C., Nijzink, R., Pechlivanidis, I., Capell, R., Wagener, T., Freer, J., Han, D., McGuire, K., Hrachowitz, M., Arheimer, B (In Preparation) Catchment Prediction In Changing Environments (CAPICHE): A Model Inter-comparison Experiment (in preparation to be submitted to Hydrology and Earth System Sciences).
Iliopoulou, T., Aguilar, C., Arheimer, B., Bermudez, M., Bezak, N., Ficchi, A., Koutsoyiannis, D., Parajka, J., Polo, M-J, Thirel, G., and Montanari, A., 2017, Seasonal flow correlation, physical drivers and application to flood frequency prediction (scientific article in preparation for submission to Hydrological Sciences Journal).
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3 Potential impact and Main dissemination/exploitation
The SWITCH-ON project has already achieved a considerable impact for contributing partners, some of which were SMEs who had not had international contacts nor been involved in EU-projects before. Also several of the scientific partners were beginners in the EU Framework Programmes and evolved new networks and relationships in this truly collaborative project. The SWITCH-ON management style was agile and interactive throughout the project period. This helped in producing tangible results and software at a very early stage in the project, which was widely recognized from the start and copied by other projects to succeed in delivering marketable results. Being agile also means being open for new prerequisites and at project mid-term the goal of a ‘One-stop-shop’ was abandoned for the three new goals for EU research and innovation policy: Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World (European Commission, 2016). These three goals were first discussed by Commissioner Moedas in a speech in June 2015, showing how research and innovation contribute across the political priorities of the European Commission. The SWITCH-ON project already embraced the idea that digital technologies is making science and innovation more open, collaborative and global. It became obvious that the way science works is currently changing fundamentally and that equally important transformation is taking place in how companies and societies innovate. Thus, the project vision and potential impact changed to implementing the Three O’s in practice.
3.1 Wider societal implications of SWITCH-ON
SWITCH-ON has implemented the three goals for EU research and innovation policy regarding “the Three O’s” (Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World) for the water domain and spread the message through its policy briefs to 771 policy makers across Europe. In addition, the SWITCH-ON contribution to each of “The O’s” was summarised in three overarching information videos, which will now be launched after the project ending. These videos will be inspiring for follow-up projects on similar themes and foster an ambitious approach to project goals and management for tangible results:
• SWITCH-ON Open Innovation: https://youtu.be/ENIeh4ethK8
• SWITCH-ON Open Science: https://youtu.be/KsV7v44T2oY
• SWITCH-ON Open to the world: https://youtu.be/-RTEYKrdXf0
3.1.1 Fostering Open innovation
22 paying customers have already subscribed to, or purchased results from 10 of the SWITCH-ON products, and yet another 15 new projects will make use of the products in up-coming applications. Hence, the SWITCH-ON project has revealed major direct impact on the business for beneficiaries involved (mainly SMEs) through increasing revenue and raising their product development profile. It also verifies that the SWITCH-ON approach to innovation is effective when translating hydrological science outputs into useful products and services for a wide range of target groups, including water managers, researchers, businesses, and authorities at multiple levels. The acquisition of paying customers by the majority of SWITCH-ON products also lead to recognition of the benefits from combining agile product development, multidisciplinary collaboration and knowledge brokering principles, which ensure a user-centric focus in its activities. The project results validate that this method is effective for developing business and show the potential to accelerate innovations by bridging between science and commercial products and thereby stimulating growth in the European market.
By applying the agile method of product and business development, SWITCH-ON provides an example of how this approach – and its emphasis on minimal marketable versions – speeds up development and innovation. Ultimately, the success of the SWITCH-ON Products and Services demonstrates the value of the agile method’s customer focus and feedback, when fostering open innovation.
Another factor that improved the competitiveness for the participating companies was the structured approach to market analysis and user interactions. SWITCH-ON produced a structured toolbox that guides innovators to identify target markets and select a suitable business model consistently. This toolbox, called the Market Analysis Framework (MAF), has been applied by the developers of the 14 SWITCH-ON open data products and services, making it a tested and validated framework. The MAF helps product developers to identify and analyse target markets for their innovations, ensuring that a clear market need exists, facilitating strategic communication with the target group, and enabling the selection of a suitable business model. The framework provides the basis for co-creation and demand-driven innovation that can ultimately result in better products and services. By promoting demand-driven product development, the MAF help European innovators increase their chances of achieving commercial success, ultimately contributing to the region’s smarter, more sustainable, and more inclusive future economy. The MAF is currently further exploited beyond the SWITCH-ON project to help more product developers to become successful in producing strategical business plans (to see the MAF inclusion in the BRIGAID initiative, please check http://maf.brigaid.eu).
The success of the SWITCH-ON’s application of the Open Innovation approach has prepared the ground for the development of further innovations based on Open Data and the extension of Open Innovation to other realms. The positive economic, social, and environmental impact of the existing products and services suggests international market expansion opportunities. By acting as an Open Innovation hub, SWITCH-ON showed the potential by bringing together scientists, entrepreneurs and end-users in order to:
• Turn scientific research results into marketable products with positive socioeconomic and environmental impacts.
• Raise awareness on Open Data and its usefulness and application in products and services.
The SWITCH-ON experience has shown the potential of products and services based on Open Data. If a supportive policy framework is in place, the re-use of Open Data by entrepreneurs pays off, especially for SMEs and start-ups. The societal implication should be to use SWITCH-ON as a flag-ship project to stimulate governmental Open Data to always be produced and published in anticipation of potential business re-use.
3.1.2 Fostering Open Science
Scientific research is swiftly shifting towards an open, collaborative, and global approach – Open Science. The trend is clear: the science of the future is distributed, international, collaborative, and aims to communicate knowledge as quickly and as widely as possible. The theoretical benefits of Open Science are also clear: increased transparency, speed, reliability, and wider engagement. However, making the approach a reality implies overcoming problems associated with accessing open data, sharing information with others and generating reproducible science. SWITCH-ON therefore developed new forms of scientific research to implement open science in practice.
The SWITCH-ON Virtual Water-Science Laboratory (VWSL) facilitates collaboration in large groups and supports reproducibility in computational experiments. The goal is to overcome geographical distance for comparative hydrology and increase transparency when using computational tools in hydrological sciences. The VWSL gives access to open data through dedicated software tools for data search and upload, and helps creating protocols for joint experiments in the virtual environment.
The SWITCH-ON VWSL is a working example of Open Science in action and illustrates many of the benefits promised by this transformation. Research already completed on the platform is characterised by international cooperation and applications, transparency, reproducibility, and a commitment to openness. The VWSL features two key components: a collaborative experiment platform and a data catalogue. The VWSL hosts detailed experiment protocols that ensure replicable research with greater reach. Its extensive open data catalogue, featuring more than 800 spatially-located and keyword-searchable metadata and links to water-relevant open datasets, allows users to easily inspect and download data from various data providers.
The WVSL was developed, tested, and demonstrated within the SWITCH-ON project, and it is now open to any scientist for launching new ideas, posing scientific questions, sharing data, proposing experiments, and discussing and replicating results. Eight completed and three ongoing experiments, including three either led by, or including groups external to the SWITCH-ON project, have proven that SWITCH-ON’s VWSL can facilitate the EU’s vision of a shift to robust, reproducible, and globally collaborative research. The ultimate impact: more reliable (quality assured), efficient and responsive science, better suited to meeting the needs of an interconnected and interdependent Europe and world in the 21st Century.
3.1.3 Fostering Openness to the World
The innovative information products and services created in SWITCH-ON facilitate more efficient use of natural resources and enhanced environmental protection. The products and services supports globally-connected science, digital innovation, and the use of open data to help citizens, governments, and businesses in Europe and across the globe move towards a sustainable future. By adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the UN member countries agreed on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to eradicate poverty, hunger, injustice and inequality, whilst promoting economic growth, peace, and environmental sustainability. The products in SWITCH-ON support many of these goals and may thus have an impact on the global scale for a better world (Fig. 17).
Figure 17. Some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Agenda 2030 that SWITCH-ON products support.
SWITCH-ON outputs can also support the implementation of the EU’s existing domestic policies, which are in line with the UN SDGs. This is particularly true of the EU’s environmental policies (including the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework, the Birds and the Habitats Directives), but also extends to headline economic policies such as the Europe 2020 growth strategy, which targets climate and energy sustainability alongside inclusive job creation and poverty reduction. The EU is also committed to supporting the rest of the world meet these targets, and has identified global collaboration in science and innovation as a practical way of strengthening existing ties and building new bridges to achieve this goal.
SWITCH-ON has managed to demonstrate this link between Open Science, Open Innovation and environmental sustainability by driving new forms of collaboration in hydrological research and producing innovative environmental management/awareness products and services. Indeed, 12 different experiments have been carried out using the SWITCH-ON VWSL and 10 of the 14 environmental products and services that received support on their road to market have already found paying customers. This has increased the evidence base on how collaboration across nations and disciplines has the potential to drive business opportunities for new products and services that tackle global challenges.
The SWITCH-ON project’s products and services demonstrate how collaboration in science and innovation can deliver economic and social benefits and link Europe to the world. Through SWITCH-ON’s collaborative experiment platform, the VWSL, the SWITCH-ON partners cultivated international research partnerships and cooperation on hydrological research. The resulting science and innovation ultimately generated business opportunities in Europe and in new and emerging markets – whilst at the same time delivering social benefits in the form of improved environmental management and citizen engagement. In this way, SWITCH-ON mirrored and supported Europe’s interconnected and international response to the Sustainable Development Goals. By furthering science, advancing international cooperation, and developing business opportunities, SWITCH-ON increased EU links to the world, supported EU economic outcomes, and illustrated how international cooperation, improved environment, and economic growth can go hand in hand for the good of the world.
3.2 Main dissemination activities and exploitation of results
The SWITCH-ON portal has been established as a well-known platform for sharing open data, achieving information about the SWITCH-ON products and services, the virtual water science laboratory, as well as to marketing tools and a knowledge brokering library. Almost 9000 unique visitors have used the portal. The news section at the portal has been actively updated with more than 75 new items published. The SWITCH-ON twitter account has more than 150 followers, with more than 800 tweets (average engagements: 241 during final 3 months of the project). With more than 60 presentations of the WVSL at scientific conferences, including EGU, IAHS and AGU, the concept has become widely known within the computational water science domain. Thus, the vision of the Three O’s as well as the benefits of open data and transparency in research have been widely spread by SWITCH-ON dissemination activities; SWITCH-ON has been a flash-light and trigger to advance scientific research in the water domain to tackle on-going changes that were to some extent already noted in other scientific disciplines.
3.2.1 Result uptake by the scientific community
The Virtual Water-Science Laboratory (VWSL) was successfully designed for water research and received a lot of appreciation in the hydrological community. In order to share and promote the Lab with other scientists for a broader user uptake, we conducted a couple of focussed outreach efforts to all geoscience disciplines during the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting, held in Vienna, Austria, during 23rd – 28th April 2017. This outreach effort was centred on activities within the Exhibition, where SWITCH-ON had a booth, but we also run a hands-on training course as well as a workshop discussing similar efforts in other disciplines with invited speakers. Throughout the week, there were SWITCH-ON participants in the booth, engaging passing scientists to come into the booth, read the posters, click through and discuss the concept. Booth visitors agreed that virtual labs facilitate transparent research, and capture metadata, which often cannot be described in methods at length. It was emphasised that it can impact scientific research by helping to avoid duplication, promote reuse of data and encourage more interaction between disciplines and research groups. Noticed benefits included that it is free and is easy to access online, that it helps participants use open data and provides a good way to share methods and data. It will have the impact of moving science forward more quickly and let other people use and reuse results, scripts, and data.
The VWSL has stimulated some scientific debate regarding reproducibility in hydrological sciences and triggered new forms of collaborations (e.g. EOSC grant led by TUDELFT). Overall, SWITCH-ON VWSL has had considerable impact on discussing open science among water scientists, which probably impact on how water research is performed in the future; SWITCH-ON initiated a new culture of collaborative, comparative water research in Europe and the world. The International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) has already launched links to the SWITCH-ON VWSL on their web sites (see left column at https://iahs.info/Commissions--W-Groups/Working-Groups/Panta-Rhei.do) and several scientists have committed to use the lab and new experiments are continuously appearing. For instance, Dr. Anne F. van Loon (recipient of the 2017 Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award at EGU) was introduced to the VWSL at EGU 2017, and has since planned to use the VWSL in upcoming collaborations linked to the Panta Rhei working groups of IAHS (Fig. 18). Moreover, the VWSL was promoted at the conference Transformations2017 to search for user up-take also in disciplines outside of geosciences, and it was then recognized to have a large potential for other sciences domains. The dissemination activities resulted in a large interest to further tailor and develop similar virtual laboratories in other disciplines for specific target groups of users.
Figure 18. Screen capture showing twitter conversation regarding use of the VWSL in new Panta Rhei initiatives.
The scientific impact from specific experiments run within the SWITCH-ON VWSL cannot yet be judged as many papers are still in submission, but six scientific papers are published in well-recognised journals. The results from the experiments will hopefully promote others to works with the SWITCH-ON VWSL or with similar concepts. The SWITCH-ON beneficiaries SMHI, DELTARES and CISMET have agreed to continue maintaining the web site hosting the VWSL for at least two more years. If the interest continues to grow for this tool and there is an opportunity for funding (e.g. in new research projects or by an international research funder/organisation), it may be maintained even longer and develop into a sustainable infrastructure for repeatable and transparent research to support open science.
3.2.2 Result uptake by water managers and policy makers
Most of the SWITCH-ON products and services were well received by paying customers and still attract new attention as well as incubating new business opportunities. This was partly an effect of user interactions, both in interactive user workshops with international audiences, and numerous interactions between individual developers and potential customers. Project specific user workshops were organised in Greece (Febr. 2016), Sweden (March 2016), and during the Final End-User conference in Porto (Sept. 2017), where the developers raised the profile of what is possible within EU-funded research projects in terms of product development and marketing. In addition, specific products were launched at events organized externally. For instance, the SafeTrip app was used during a flood experiment in the Hague area, Wateringse Veld (April 2016) organized by the EU project DRIVER and 35 participating organisations. Volunteers then received flood warnings and flood alerts via SafeTrip for the area where they were in at that specific time, which was highly appreciated and resulted in extensive feedback.
The product owners carried out demonstrations for all 14 products and services in new markets represented by either a new geographical area and/or a new environment (Table 5). Some of the product owners carried out demonstrations towards multiple users during workshops or conferences, while others focused on a single user in a physical meeting or online meeting. This has helped to empower stakeholders and improve their access to water information, which contributes to improved policy implementation within certain fields such as water quality monitoring and implementation of the Water Framework Directive.
Table 5. Summary of product demonstrations in user-specific dialogues for new markets.
Product SME Demo in new area Demo in new environment Identified user Time for Demo
APRIL Gecosistema ✓ Multiple users 2016
DIWADIS HKV ✓ ✓ Multiple users 2016
eutrophication.eu SMHI ✓ Ålands landskapsregering, Finland; England Environment Agency, UK Feb 2017
FFRM Humer ✓ Aneby municipality, Sweden Mar 2016
Forecast Broker Deltares ✓ Rijkswaterstaat, Netherlands Dec 2016
HYCAW Gecosistema ✓ Multiple users 2016
NUTPRINT Deltares ✓ Marine Information and Data Centre 2016
riverinfo.eu SMHI ✓ Met.no Norway May 2017
SafeTrip HKV ✓ Multiple users 2016
SHIFT HKV ✓ IWAD, Ghana 2016
SHPA Gecosistema ✓ Multiple users 2016-2017
UNCOVER JBA ✓ Multiple users 2016-2017
wPOLIS EMVIS ✓ Multiple users May 2016
wPRISMA EMVIS ✓ Multiple users May 2016
The frequent user interactions in SWITCH-ON provided the product developers with early feedback on design, features, accuracy and marketing, resulting in requested products. The successful SWITCH-ON concept of working agile, open and user oriented is a role-model for bridging science and practice into real-world business, which has already inspired new projects within the EU programmes of H2020 (e.g. CLARA; BRIGAID) and Copernicus (e.g. C3S_242_Lot1_SMHI; C3S_422_lot1_SMHI). The products and services from SWITCH-ON are now integrated in on-going activities within each organization as part of the official business portfolio, while the professional networks established continue to flourish with several partners collaborating in new constellations.
3.2.3 Data uptake and recognition
By the end of the project, the SWITCH-ON Spatial Information Platform has 804 quality checked metadata records and 73 new datasets. The catalogue of SWITCH-ON datasets has been registered on the GEOSS geoportal (http://www.geoportal.org/) to be harvested regularely. This has, and will continue to allow scientists within the GEOSS community and all over the world, to access quality datasets with clear, comprehensive metadata. This will not only encourage others to include such metadata with their datasets, increasing the quality and reliability of scientific information, but will enable new users of the data to exploit what has already been calculated, so further scientific advances can be developed. SWITCH-ON results on data acquisition and technical infrastructure were presented at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 GEO meetings, which highlighted that with such quality metadata being linked to the GEOSS platforms, research can potentially happen faster without having to create new datasets/search to find new datasets; the concept of data re-purposing was recognised and implemented. The project successfully demonstrated tangible results to build public access and awareness of open data availability and character for further exploitation.
SWITCH-ON also produced new datasets from scientific experiments, which was recognized by Open Aires (Fig. 19), where SWITCH-ON is No 12 on the list of open data providers (October 2017). SWITCH-ON has contributed 73 new open datasets that deal with four categories; (i) floods; (ii) drought and water scarcity; (iii) water quality and deterioration; (iv) changing conditions. The implication is now that future science and water information products can incorporate these datasets to complement sustainable development when managing floods, building new infrastructure, planning agricultural developments. Having this data available for searching in such topics will have the impact of improving water-management practices through an informed and scientific basis. As water touches all societal and environmental domains, the impact from better water-related data can be enormous; Water is the basis for life and ultimately the reason why our society could develop the way it did. The availability and distribution of water supports the Earth’s ecosystem as well as our demands for drinking water, food, energy, industrial production, transport and recreation. However, due to its variable availability in space and time, water is also recognized as the most important environmental hazard world-wide; floods, droughts and water-borne pollution cause thousands of casualties, significant disruption and damages worth billions of euro every year. Population pressure, changes in lifestyle and climate change do not only dictate a more sustainable use of the limited resource water but also require improved protection of individuals as well as increased resilience of society as a whole against water-driven hazards.
Figure 19. Left panel: FP7 Datasets per project as shown on the OpenAires FP7 statistics (https://www.openaire.eu/fp7-stats) in October 2017. Right panel: Datasets with DOI using Zenedo (showing SWITCH-ON on top).
Finally, SWITCH-ON has also had an impact on other initiatives through dissemination of the spatial information platform and data-infrastructure related tools. Throughout the project, members from SWITCH-ON frequently met with CUASHI representatives to discuss a common road-map and how to merge efforts between Europe and the USA in development of shared research infrastructure, e.g. with the HYDROSHARE project. Future sustainability of the tools and software developed in SWITCH-ON is currently searched jointly with CUASHI. The two initiatives are complementary and provide the water sector with a global research-data infrastructure, which allow for an optimal re-use of data on the condition that we can make this data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usuable). With this, SWITCH-ON already started implementing the G7 Science Ministers’ declaration from September 28th 2017 (see point 19 and 20 in
List of Websites:
4 Project Websites
Overall project – admin. oriented (descriptive):
Overall project – user oriented (to access tools):
The Virtual Water-Science Lab.:
YouTube videos describing project relevance for the Three O’s:
SWITCH-ON Open Innovation: https://youtu.be/ENIeh4ethK8
SWITCH-ON Open Science: https://youtu.be/KsV7v44T2oY
SWITCH-ON Open to the world: https://youtu.be/-RTEYKrdXf0
Websites of each Product and Service (in alphabetic order):
‘DIWADIS‘ (Dimensioning Water °C Distribution): demo.hkv.nl/diwadis
‘FFRM’ (Flash Flood Risk Mapping): www.waterviewer.com/#Viewer
‘Forecast Broker‘: http://tl-tc039.xtr.deltares.nl:8080/switchon-catalog/srv/eng/catalog.search#/home
’HyCAW’(Hydrological Change Adaptation Wizard): www.hycaw.com
‘NUtrient footPRINT to European coastal waters’: www.nutrientfootprint.eu
‘SHIFT’ (SHort-term Irrigation need Forecas): mwogo.hkvconsultants.com/shift.ui/#dashboard/1
‘SHPA’ (Small Hydropower Plants Atlas): www.hydropower-atlas.com
‘UNCOVER’ (UNiversal COmputer-based Visual Exploration of Risks’: http://shiny.jbahosting.com/uncover/
Grant agreement ID: 603587
1 November 2013
31 October 2017
€ 7 734 848,45
€ 5 998 302
SVERIGES METEOROLOGISKA OCH HYDROLOGISKA INSTITUT
Deliverables not available
Grant agreement ID: 603587
1 November 2013
31 October 2017
€ 7 734 848,45
€ 5 998 302
SVERIGES METEOROLOGISKA OCH HYDROLOGISKA INSTITUT
Grant agreement ID: 603587
1 November 2013
31 October 2017
€ 7 734 848,45
€ 5 998 302
SVERIGES METEOROLOGISKA OCH HYDROLOGISKA INSTITUT