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Prof Guy Midgley elected President of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation
Author: Media & Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 27/06/2022

​Prof Guy Midgley has been elected President of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation – a US-based foundation that supports research in biodiversity informatics in southern Africa.

The Foundation was formed as a result of the work of Jacob Richard Schramm, an American botanist who was the founding editor of Biological Abstracts, a scientific information service originally established with a Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1925, which became the non-profit publisher BIOSIS. The proceeds from the sale of BIOSIS to Thomson Reuters (then Thompson Scientific) were employed to establish the Foundation in 2007, with financial assets currently standing at roughly US$50 million.

Midgley, interim director of the School for Climate Studies and a professor in global change biology in the Department of Botany and Zoology, was invited to serve on the JRS board of trustees in 2018. He served on the Foundation's grants committee in vetting and funding roughly US$2 to 3 million per annum in half a dozen grants of various sizes (see When the potential impacts of the Covid pandemic on conservation and its scientific support base became apparent, Midgley advocated for a fast-track “lifeboat" grant cycle to support conservation institutions to retain capacity in critical biodiversity informatics activities in protected areas in several countries in southern Africa. With the support of the board for this proposal, JRS became an early mover in helping to fill gaps created by the catastrophic decline in tourism earnings in the region, which threatened to undermine research funding for protected areas.

Prior to his election as President, Midgley chaired a committee tasked with revising the medium-term strategy of the Foundation, while at the same time board membership was transforming to reflect even better African interests and perspectives: “The board is well endowed with visionary and deeply engaged people representing influential institutions, and their expertise has been pivotal in the evolution of a refreshed strategy that will guide the next five years or more of its grant investments," Midgley notes.

Midgley says the vision of the JRS Foundation is for a world in which biodiversity knowledge substantially contributes to conserving the Earth's biodiversity for the benefit of society: “The strategy revision work has delved into how we can more deliberately pursue this vision by understanding the journey of biodiversity data from its creation through to its impact on policy and actions, and back to guide more targeted efforts".

The strategy renewal process has already shaped a new call for proposals for 2022 – see

Photo credit: Stefan Els