HERA RG Thumbnail3.png

Research Goal 5

Develop infrastructures, technologies and human resources for sustainable research on environment and health

Sustainability of research and effectiveness of interventions in the field of environment, climate and health relies on the availability of solid infrastructures, development of new robust and innovative technologies, an adequate legal framework and availability of expert human resources. Those are the global objectives of RG5 which will build on existing infrastructures and resources in the EU and elaborate research needs where gaps have been identified.

A large part of new developments in research in recent years were made possible by the development of new technologies using remote sensing, visualization techniques, sensors, and of monitoring and biomonitoring networks, human cohorts, capacities for widely targeted and nontargeted analyses of available samples, and for complex analyses of big data. A key aspect for the development of research and effective policies is the adoption of a planetary approach that may combine the local with the global and examines human health in conjunction with the health of the environment. Research infrastructures are core entities and should provide enabling frameworks for conducting high-level research and fostering innovations in this area in Europe.

Numerous research infrastructures have been developed in Europe during the last decades in closely interlinked environmental domains, i.e. atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere. They include ESFRI (European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructures) projects and landmarks, as well as other EU-funded projects . However, to tackle environmental challenges, researchers need to work in a more integrated manner towards universal understanding of the Earth’s system. Environmental research infrastructures should be clustered and integrated with relevant infrastructures from the Health and Food domain and associated e-infrastructures to enhance the interdisciplinarity .

Several gaps have been identified and the corresponding research needs are described below. They aim to develop: 1) the coordination and promotion of welldesigned cohorts; 2) a framework for sustainable environmental and human chemical monitoring; 3) laboratory capacities for exposure and effects markers; 4) additional innovative tools including computational tools; 5) a Planetary Health monitoring framework integrating environmental and health data; 6) education and training capacities.

RG 5.1 Well-designed and maintained population cohorts and related biobanks

Carry out an inventory and harmonise existing and future epidemiological cohort studies

Combine various types of data and methods to enable exposome type assessment

Cohorts should include children, pregnant women, adults, elderly

Network of cohorts that collaborate across disciplines, increasing the critical mass and interdisciplinary connections

Contribute to improved infrastructure for collecting harmonized data

New knowledge on disease trajectories and the role and attribution of environment, lifestyle, diet and genes to disease/health outcomes

RG 5.2 Chemical monitoring and data integration to inform on environmental and human exposure trends

Establish structures and platforms for long-term monitoring

Data sharing and integration between human and environmental surveys

Data from wildlife and environmental exposure studies

Build infrastructures to improve monitoring and emerging substance detection

RG 5.3 Development of laboratory capacities for assessment of exposure and effect markers

Develop a distributed research infrastructure providing sufficient laboratory capacities

Develop high-throughput methods to assess both exposure and effects

Develop innovative experimental and modelling tools to explore the effects of environment on toxicity outcomes

RG 5.4 Development of new technologies in environmental, climate and health assessment and systemic approaches

Satellite-based exposure assessment combined with ground-based data

Inexpensive wearable devices that register numerous biological parameters in real time

Evaluating how new technologies can be applied in difficult to reach populations

Advancing data sciences and modelling

Use of social media data to assess behaviors, exposures and outcomes

Availability of climate data and health data in database 

Integrated models to estimate the impact of food production on human and planetary health

Developing technical knowledge base and scientific data

Advancing integrated and citizen science

Developing the human exposome project

Mapping of social vulnerability

Exploring new study paradigms

Advancing research on tools for intervention, e.g. decontamination of ecosystems

Increase EU's capacity to innovate in the area of technologies in environmental, climate and health assessment

Improve the quality and sustainability of systems tracking

Better prediction of disease risk by acquisition of new knowledge

RG 5.5 Transdisciplinary research infrastructure: Planetary Health monitoring

Data integration and analysis to connect indicators of global environmental changes

Leveraging big data from the National Health registers

Research and monitoring using data from health and demographic surveillance sites

Estimating current and future temperature-related deaths

Assembling evidence for actions that promote adaptation to environmental change

Enable better detection of early warnings and emerging risks

Provide increased evidence and knowledge for policymakers

Monitor the consequent changes in environmental and health outcomes

RG 5.6 Education, training and capacity building

Appropriate advanced educational programs

Better education/training in the holistic perspectives

Improved training possibilities both in science and in the interphase with the relevant societal actors

A pan-European program for training and capacity building in environment, climate and health

Building regional competencies

Meeting the competence needs will enable both the research and societal sector