INSIGNIA-EU, success is in details


Success is in the detail

“The devil is in the detail” is a saying often used to point to unexpected events in a process. In other words, one can say “success is in the detail”.

Welcome to INSIGNIA-EU, an exciting new pan-european citizen scientist study with beekeepers. The Mission statement of the is INSIGNIA -EU study is:  “INSIGNIA-EU will extend the INSIGNIA pilot project (2019-2021) to encompass pan-European environmental pollution bio-monitoring using honey bee colonies. The main pillars are: 1) Robust data, generated by beekeeper citizen scientists via a clear bio-monitoring guideline (protocol), new simple and easy to handle sampling techniques and sample preservation methods, quality controlled sample analyses to low levels and professional data handling; and 2) Modelling of land use – related to environmental (established and emergent) pollutants, pesticide exposure risk for honey bees and pollen diversity.”.

I will focus now on pillar 1 and particularly on sampling. The quality of every study depends on the quality of the data, it is as simple as this. In a citizen science study the quality of the data depends on the beekeeper and the honey bee colony. Let me depict the INSIGNIA-EU study process as a chain. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. Basically, the INSIGNIA-EU chain is: honey bee colony > beekeeper > sampling > sample labelling > sample preservation > sample storage > sample shipment > sample analysis.  In this sequence chain there is no strong or weak link. Imagine if the quality of the colony is not good. This will result in a sequence of actions involving a lot of energy and time leading to a result that, by definition, will be not good as well. This could be similar with the other links.

Therefore the INSIGNIA-EU study can only become a success if all participants are committed to the study. In the field, the role of the national coordinators, who organise the country samplings and the beekeepers can not be underestimated. They are the foundation of this study.

It is my task as coordinator of this study to overview and control this process, with regular meetings with the consortium members and national apiculturalist coordinators, in which all practical aspects are discussed and decisions are made, as well as monitoring the process to identify any pitfalls that we have missed.  All this energy will be in vain without a solid base; the beekeeper and his/ her colonies, and his/ her eye for details. So let’s make the INSIGNIA-EU study success with the saying in mind “success is in the detail”.