Inclusion of Digital Sequence Information into the Access and Benefits Sharing mechanism under the the Nagoya Protocol

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02 July 2018 2818 reads

Meeting title
Inclusion of Digital Sequence Information into the Access and Benefits Sharing mechanism under the the Nagoya Protocol (Remote Access Instructions) 

Organizers: IG ELIXIR Bridging Force, WG BioSharing Registry: connecting data policies, standards & databases in life sciences, IG Agricultural Data Interest Group (IGAD), IG Biodiversity Data Integration

Meeting room: Tsodilo A

Collaborative session notes 

Group chair serving as contact person (responsible for the agreement with the corresponding groups)
Rob Hooft

Brief introduction describing the activities and scope of the group(s)

ELIXIR is the European inter-governmental organization of 21 member nodes, including EMBL-EBI, in 20 countries (, representing the European bioinformatics capacity and key research infrastructure resources. Operating in the life, environmental and biomedical sciences, ELIXIR works closely with the USA National Institutes of Health (NIH), Big Data to Knowledge Initiative (BD2K) and other EU infrastructure programmes (also represented in the RDA GEDE group). The ELIXIR Bridging Force Interest Group, as its name suggests, serves as a bridge between ELIXIR and relevant RDA Interest Groups. The ELIXIR Bridging Force IG works as an information bridge between RDA and ELIXIR and other relevant organisations.

FAIRsharing is the evolution of BioSharing (, a curated, informative and educational resource on inter-related data standards, data repositories, and journal and funder policies. The original focus on life, environmental and biomedical sciences is being expanded to other domains, to reflect the broader interest and uptake of the BioSharing resource, which is also, part of the ELIXIR Interoperability Platform. Work is in progress to also rename the joint RDA and Force11 BioSharing WG to the FAIRsharing WG, This use cases-driven WG has already delivered a draft recommendation adopted by journals, funders, research infrastructures and organizations.

IGAD is a domain-oriented group working on all issues related to global agriculture data. It represents stakeholders in managing data for agricultural research and innovation, including producing, aggregating and consuming data. Beyond this IGAD promotes good practices in research with regard to data sharing policies, data management plans, and data interoperability, and it is a forum for sharing experiences and providing visibility to research and work in agricultural data. One of IGAD’s main roles is to serve as a platform that leads to the creation of domain-specific Working Groups. To date, four successful Working Groups have been formed under IGAD – Wheat Data Interoperability, Rice Data Interoperability, AgriSemantics and On-Farm Data Sharing

The Biodiversity field is working on data integration through Biodiversity Data Integration IG.

The RDA/Codata Legal interoperability IG works on recommendations for data sharing that facilitate legal aspects of interoperation. The group currently is interested in research fields where application of their recommendation is encountering hurdles, and works with those groups on solutions.

Meeting objectives

Many countries in the world have signed a series of legal agreements specifying that countries that are at the origin of biological samples should also benefit from the results of the research that is coming from it. The Nagoya Protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) regulates access to physical genetic resources and the sharing of benefits derived from their utilisation (broadly speaking, R&D using genetic resources). The CBD is currently discussing whether to expand the scope of the Nagoya Protocol (NP) to include Digital Sequence Information (DSI). This could mean that:
1) In contrast with the current movement towards open science encompassing free sharing of research data, there are legal frameworks that restrict what can be done with digital genetic information (in the discussion often referred to as Digital Sequence Information (DSI)).
2) Genetic databases trying to get a comprehensive overview can have white spots where unlimited sharing is not permitted.

Since the legal arrangement was primarily set up to protect the interest of people in less wealthy nations, the first RDA Plenary on the African continent gives this subject a good place to open the discussion among RDA members.

Goal of the meeting is to get more clear what the practical consequences of the ABS and the proposed extension are for (open, data intensive) research, and to either try and bring this together as a short statement released shortly after the meeting, or to set up an RDA WG to write such a statement. The result can constitute a significant part of the viewpoint from the research domain in the current discussion in CBD.

* The ABS concept:
* Explanation of the Nagoya Protocol:
* Report of the ad-hoc expert group on digital sequence information:
* International Chamber of Commerce (ICCWBO) Postion paper on digital sequence informatioin:
* Joint stakeholder statement “Safeguarding open exchange of Digital Sequence Information”.

Meeting agenda
16:00-16:05: Rob Hooft, Welcome, Purpose of the session, Walkthrough of the agenda.

16:05-16:10: Paul Uhlir, What are we talking about? Some definitions and abbreviations.

16:10-16:25: Paul Uhlir, Everything is a database. Critical Legal Issues for Research Data Under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol

16:25-16:40: Nicki Tiffin, H3Africa and an African perspective on ABS

16:40-16:50: Rob Hooft: ELIXIR and FAIRsharing, and how ABS affects them. 

16:50-17:00: Dirk Neumann, Biodiversity data under Nagoya: looking in to a fine future? (via remote participation)

17:00-17:10: Rodrigo Sara, (IFPRI), Agriculture perspective.

17:10-17:30: Questions and open discussion (moderated by Ben Schaap, GODAN)  to see whether further RDA action (e.g. a WG to come up with a recommendation) could help. We are really looking for input from African Scientists on their perspective.

Additional links


Please specify who is your target audience and how they should prepare for the meeting

Legal experts on data, as well as any researchers whose work could be affected by legal restrictions based on the geographical origin of digital sequence data.

Type of meeting
Working meeting

Remote Access Instructions:

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1. Biodiversity data under Nagoya: looking in to a fine future?

Biodiversity repositories and researchers play a leading role in producing and publishing biodiversity data in digital form, comprising but not being limited to, digital sequence information. Aggregation of biodiversity data and the free access to such data compiled by taxonomists is not only encouraged by the CBD and the importance of enhanced world species libraries backed-up with genomic data and DNA barcodes has repeatedly been emphasised (SCBD 2014). To achieve this, a lot still needs to be done and data contributions from researchers in provider and user countries are essential. In this, ex-situ collections have a key function as data repositories and data aggregators of digitalized biodiversity data, including DSI. Restricting the access to such data not only undermines the goals of the CBD, Aichi Targets and the agenda to promote a sustainable development by 2030, it also compromises capacity building and research collaborations with researchers from the Global South (Bockmann et Al. 2018) and has implications for food safety and biocontrol (Cock et al., 2010; Prathapan et al. 2008). While advanced biosciences ironically moved away from direct gene analysis and seeks to protect their innovations under different legal regimes (such as protection as trade secrets), the implications of restricted access to biodiversity data are immense (Bockmann et Al. 2018). In our presentation we want to review the current state in the discussions (Neumann et al, 2018) and the potential shortcomings for the CBD and biodiversity research in general.

Submitted by Dirk Neumann, for the CETAF ABS Core group


  • Bockmann, Flávio Alicino, et al. "Brazil's government attacks biodiversity." science 360.6391 (2018): 865-865.
  • Neumann, D., et al. "Global biodiversity research tied up by juridical interpretations of access and benefit sharing." Organisms Diversity & Evolution 18.1 (2018): 1-12.
  • SCBD Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. (2014).Global Biodiversity Outlook 4.