published: February 9, 2011
Any Ideas for a Structuring Project in Plant Sciences?
Yes, indeed, Professor Thomas Boller from the University of Basel had the adequate answer to this question:
The Swiss Plant Science Web!
Not only did Thomas Boller lay the foundation for the Swiss Plant Science Web. Today he acts as a dedicated president for our network.
By Thomas Boller
The "Swiss Plant Science Web" (SPSW) is young, vibrant and full of ideas, and I am very happy to contribute, as its president, to the networking of the "scientia amabilis" in Switzerland. "Scientia amabilis" was Linné’s binomial term for botany. It is really great that our lovable science is now in full bloom in Switzerland, after being considered the shrinking violet of "Life Science" for many years!
"But how was the SPSW born? This is a somewhat special story!"
About three years ago, on a Monday morning, Professor Alex Eberle, from the medical faculty, appeared in my office. At the time, he was the head of the planning committee of the University of Basel; he is now Vice-Rector of planning. Alex told me that he was going to a meeting of "CRUS" (Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities) in the afternoon, acting as deputy for the rector, and that at that meeting he would really like to present a "structuring project" to do with the University of Basel. "I am aware of the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center, he said, and continued: "Could you not write half a page for me on a structuring project in plant science by noon?" So I wrote half a page, mentioning a rough budget of a million Swiss francs, on the idea of coordinating research within the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center.
"Believe it or not, "CRUS" thought my proposal was quite convincing, except that, in their opinion, it should not only comprise Zurich and Basel, but all of Switzerland, and the budget was much too low ..."
After that, it took more than a year of patience, determination and perseverance, particularly on the part of Melanie Paschke and Manuela Dahinden, the managers of the "Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center", to work out a detailed, watertight proposal, and to adapt it again and again to the changing political landscape. It was particularly great to see how the initial skepticism on the side of the regional centers "Arc Lémanique" und "BeNeFri" vanished, and how this skepticism was replaced by true enthusiasm for our shared goal.
"Even greater was the fact that our combined efforts were successful, and that the project "Swiss Plant Science Web" was eventually funded, in the year 2009, by the Swiss University Conference with a sum of 4.8 million Swiss francs for three and a half years."
During the last year, we have created a central management structure in Basel and Zurich, we have opened three well-equipped technical platforms in all three regional centers, and we have hired several people to be responsible for our planned co-ordination activities, particularly with respect to teaching and public relations. As this editorial appears, we will be opening the "SWISSPLANT'11" meeting in Meiringen under the auspices of SPSW, which, for the first time, brings together Swiss plant scientists from all fields, including plant cell and molecular biologists as well as plant ecologists and taxonomists. Let us hope that this new springtime for plant science in Switzerland will bear a good crop of fruit!