The Belgian ELIXIR Node is led by VIB, a life sciences research institute performing basic research with a strong focus on translating scientific results into pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial applications. Other partners are the Belgian Universities of Ghent (UGent), Leuven (KULeuven), Antwerp (UAntwerp), Hasselt (UHasselt), Brussels (VUB and ULB) and Liège (ULg), and the Belgian scientific institute for public health (Sciensano).
ELIXIR Belgium provides domain specific services in Plant sciences, Human Health and Proteomics, and has leading roles in the ELIXIR Galaxy and Proteomics Communities. FAIRification of research data and facilitating reproducible analysis, is pursued through activities in data management and data analysis as well as training, both on National as on European level (EOSC-Life).
Bioinformatics tools and resources
For any online resource, continuous development and improvement is key to keep them state-of-the-art. Hence, one of our focus points is to extend the functionality and compatibility of bioinformatics tools and resources developed by different Belgian research groups. As such, we aim to continue to deliver relevant developments to the research community. An overview of our Node Services, situated in the fields of Plant Sciences, Human Health and Proteomics, can be found here.
Research Data Management
Life science research rests on the generation, sharing and integrated analysis of digital data. Managing these often large datasets is, however, not trivial for many researchers.
Having a (living) data management plan is the first step to achieve good data management. Therefore, a we are providing - in collaboration with the DMPbelgium Consortium - an ELIXIR template and guidance for researchers to fill in their data management plans in DMPonline.be.
The DataHub platform is under active development as a tool for research (meta)data management. This Belgian platform is based on FAIRDOM-SEEK and will allow life science researchers to manage their research (meta)data and produce FAIR data by design. This work is performed in close collaboration with ELIXIR UK, ELIXIR Germany and ELIXIR Norway, and the ELIXIR-CONVERGE project partners.
Data Analysis Platforms
As datasets grow larger, the computational resources required to process and analyse these datasets frequently outgrow the capabilities of individual researchers. Providing platforms and guidance for intensive and reproducible data analysis is as such also one of our goals.
We have set up a centrally managed Galaxy instance (usegalaxy.be) to provide researchers with a user-friendly platform to perform data-intensive analyses. This is established in close collaboration with the Galaxy Core Team and the ELIXIR Galaxy Community, and makes use of the cloud infrastructure provided by the Flemish Supercomputer Center (VSC). For users that require more flexibility, we plan to deploy the Genomics Virtual Laboratory (GVL) and container technology.
Shortly after the coronavirus outbreak, we engaged in the joint effort to set up best practices for the analysis of SARS-CoV-2 data using publicly accessible infrastructure and workflows. We also contribute to the COVID-19-specific instance for EOSC-Life's WorkflowHub.
Modern life science research calls for advanced data and technological expertise. As researchers and programmers need training to acquire such skills, our Node has established a comprehensive training program. This is done in close collaboration with the ELIXIR Training platform.
Our portfolio contains courses that provide fundamental data skills for research, basic skills for research computing and ready-to-use knowledge for comprehensive research data management according to the FAIR principles. Furthermore, courses on the Galaxy workflow system are organised to enable researchers to run more complex computational analyses in a reproducible and transparent manner. The Dodona e-learning platform is being further developed with specific features to allow interactive e-learning-based courses. Courses on ELIXIR Belgium Node Services are also offered. All training events are made available in the ELIXIR TeSS training portal.
Collaboration between ESFRIs
There is an increasing level of specialisation in today’s research groups and projects, reflected in the different data tools, repositories and resources available for each discipline. In this context, ESFRIs are ideally suited to act as agents of good research data management and data analysis.
We aim to enhance the collaboration between ESFRIs, active in the Food and Health cluster and the Environmental cluster, in the areas of data management and data analysis. A knowledge base with best-practise data repositories and data resources, has been put together and will be built into data management plans to guide researchers. We will also broker collaborations between life science ESFRIs and the developing cloud infrastructure of the Flemish Supercomputer Center (VSC). This will allow ESFRIs to provide services to their communities within the context of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
Head of Node
Deputy Head of Node