Research education is one of Maastricht University’s CORE values: to take the university social responsibility seriously by linking the university to society, from the local to the global level, and to do so by creating open access knowledge which can further strengthen connections with society. One of the educational projects in the current academic year that aims to meet these goals is the collaboration between the Faculty of Law’s Skills: Introduction to Comparative Law course and the Land Portal Foundation. After establishing the platform in 2009 as a partnership project dedicated to supporting the efforts of the rural poor to gain equitable access to land by addressing the fragmentation of information resources on land, the Land Portal eventually became an independent non-for-profit organization, based in the Netherlands in 2014. Through a variety of initiatives and partnerships, the Land Portal works to create a better information ecosystem for land governance through a platform based on cutting-edge open data technologies. According to Professor Leon Verstappen (University of Groningen), the chairman and founder of the Land Portal Foundation:
"The Land Portal is world-leading in providing access to information and data on land issues. We adhere to linked open data principles. We dig deep into countries to find and open up information on land."
The Foundation has recently received a new £1.3 million subsidy from the Department for International Development of the British Government.
For the collaborative project involving Maastricht University’s Law Faculty and Land Portal, 1styear European Law School students will conduct comparative research on land governance for the Land Portal Foundation as part of their curricular activities in order to facilitate the generation of legal information for different jurisdictions as mapped by the Land Portal Foundation. A truly open innovation environment means using the university’s infrastructure and research orientation – in this case, the research tasks students must complete as part of their skills course – to contribute to the production of open-source knowledge to be disseminated online through the website of the Land Portal Foundation. ‘This is an incredible opportunity to link education and society; the work of the Land Portal Foundation, of making legal information more transparent and more accessible, is a great context in which meaningful research skills can be taught. We are very proud to be able to collaborate with the Land Portal Foundation, and we hope this will become a yearly feature of our course’, says Catalina Goanta, the coordinator of Skills: Introduction to Comparative Law.
Apart from the team of very dedicated tutors guiding the students on research matters (Catherine Altobelli, John Cotter, Jasmin Hiry, Tanja van der Meer, Hoai-Thu Nguyen and Rikke Øksnes), the Maastricht European Private Law Institute (MEPLI) has set up a team of student fellows (Alexandra Aldous, Doris Beganovič, Bert Brookfield-Hird, Lisa Beatrice Ferrari, Magda Jacyna and Juri Wiedemann) who will further assist the students with knowledge on property law, and who will gather the research results and prepare them for submission to the Land Portal Foundation.
The Director of the Maastricht European Private Law Institute, private law professor Gijs van Dijck, is a supporter of research education:
"The involvement of students in ongoing academic research can be invaluable for both students and academics. This project is a textbook example of how to do this."
This enthusiasm is shared by Land Portal:
"We are very excited about this opportunity to partner with such a reputable university and feel that this partnership will be mutually beneficial. There are still a lot of gaps in data and information that must be filled if Land Portal is going to be an effective tool for promoting responsible land governance and sustainable development. By gathering land-related legal research conducted by students, we hope to help these young students learn and grow as researchers while also expanding the knowledge base currently hosted on the Land Portal platform," says Nicholas Tagliarino, research analyst at Land Portal Foundation.