International Workshop Series: How does sharing genetic sequence data impact biodiversity science and conservation?

 

Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization will consider whether the access and benefit sharing framework should be expanded to regulate Digital Sequence Information (DSI)—a placeholder term commonly understood to refer to information related to genetic sequences stored in a digital format—at the next CBD Conference of the Parties to be held in 2022.

In the fall of 2021, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the USA Nagoya Protocol Action Group organized an international workshop series funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant no. 2136950), to explore how the international scientific community can study biodiversity in the changing landscape of international policy. We sought to listen to different scientific communities about how they manage and share genetic sequence data, how they collaborate, and what specific challenges they face in their fields.

Recommendations

Based on ideas and concerns that were voiced during the workshop series, the workshop steering committee have published a Viewpoint in BioScience with recommendations that can contribute to the upcoming CBD discussions on DSI.

Workshop Report

Read the final workshop report that provides a synopsis of the workshops, summarizes speaker presentations, and synthesizes key themes and recommendations that emerged from the discussions.

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Workshop Modules

The workshops focused on six separate topics, each hosted by different scientific societies and featuring international speakers, most of whom have engaged in cross-border research collaborations. 

Check out the topical modules below and share your comments:

Whether you’re learning on your own, or teaching a class with a focus on biodiversity or bioethics, we encourage you to engage with us through these workshop pages. Each workshop page includes educational videos, the workshop recording, and a space to comment. We also provide written summaries synthesizing recommendations and concerns that emerged from the discussions.

Applied Ecology & Infectious Disease

Crop Research & Improvement

Macrosystems & International Long Term Ecological Research (LTERs)

Phylogenetics, Genome Evolution & Taxonomy

Livestock Research & Vertebrate Genetic Rescue

Anthropology, Ethnobiology & Paleobiology

Highlights:

  • Speakers represented a broad range of institutions, including museums, zoos, research universities, and nongovernmental organizations and came from Argentina, Brazil, China, ​​Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. They presented a robust set of case studies that illustrated experiences with collecting, analyzing, and curating DSI. 
  • Workshop participants who attended the live Zoom sessions came from 58 countries and totaled over 500 people. The six workshop recordings, which are available online as educational videos, have since been viewed more than 400 times.
  • A key theme that emerged from the six sessions was that approaches to regulating DSI must preserve open access and enable international collaboration. The free flow of scientific information and communication are crucial for scientists to address pressing challenges, such as the spread of infectious disease among plants, animals, and humans.
  • Speakers emphasized the urgent need for DSI-related research and international coordination to enable biodiversity conservation.
  • A recurring topic of discussion was the need to differentiate between commercial and non-commercial uses of DSI. It was suggested that differentiating between the intended uses could allow research without commercial intentions to proceed without onerous requirements for compliance.
  • It was argued that expected boundaries between “user countries” and “provider countries” are much less clear than the Nagoya Protocol may have anticipated: significant overlap exists between the top user countries and the top provider countries.
  • Participants discussed the unique and important role of biorepositories, which are increasingly important facilitators between ‘users’ and ‘providers’ as well as education centers.
  • Participants highlighted the importance of inclusive and community-regulated consortia for facilitating long-term collaboration and data sharing.
  • Many participants noted that the continuum of equity, justice, and efficiency is critical. Many speakers noted the importance of allocating time in international projects to build capacity within collaborating universities and institutions, and to engage with people from local communities.

The Organizing Team

Workshop Steering Committee

  • Rebecca Adler Miserendino, Lewis-Burke Associates
  • John Bates, Field Museum, Natural Science Collections Alliance
  • Rachel Meyer, University California Santa Cruz
  • Jyotsna L. Pandey, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Natural Science Collections Alliance
  • Crispin Taylor, American Society of Plant Biologists
  • Breda Zimkus, Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology

Authors of the Report

In addition to the workshop steering committee, the following individuals helped with synthesis and writing:

  • Tami Blumenfield, Yunnan University, University of New Mexico
  • Megha Srigyan, University of California Santa Cruz

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