ELIXIR strengthens global collaborations

ELIXIR’s International Strategy has been updated for 2019. This publication documents the far reaching work carried out by ELIXIR Hub and Node staff to strengthen relationships with countries, initiatives and users beyond Europe. Within the past year we have been engaging with delegations from a range of countries in order to share knowledge and expertise in areas such as life science research infrastructure organisation, bioinformatics services development and data-sharing. 

Highlights from our international engagement activities this past year include:

  • Three separate visits to the ELIXIR Hub by Australian delegations, primarily to develop a Collaboration Strategy between ELIXIR and the newly initiated Australian BioCommons pathfinder project
  • Facilitating the attendance of delegates from Australia (Australian BioCommons), South Africa (H3ABioNet) and the United States of America (NIH) at the ELIXIR All Hands meeting 2019.
  • A collaboration with the Group of Senior Officials (GSO) to develop a self assessment framework for Global Research Infrastructures, which was subsequently published as a guide for other research infrastructures. 
  • Organising several special sessions at the ISMB/ECCB joint conference
  • Developing a collaboration with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) alongside EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) to crosslink metagenomics and species occurrence data. 
Photograph of Andrew Lonie from Bioplatforms Australia delivering a talk on his visit to the ELIXIR Hub at EMBL-EBI, Hinxton, UK.
Australian delegate Andrew Lonie from Australia Biocommons presenting a talk at his visit to the ELIXIR Hub

The challenges that arise from the processing of biological data cannot be confined to national borders. The need to address some of the biggest research challenges in the fields of human health and wellbeing, crop production and climate change need to be tackled by experts the world over. While membership of ELIXIR is currently exclusively European, there is an opportunity for collaboration with researchers, governments and institutes in countries beyond Europe.

The aims of the International Strategy therefore focus around reinforcing ELIXIR’s global significance and impact, while being as inclusive as possible to promote the sharing of knowledge at a global scale. The International Strategy is articulated around four main objectives:

  1. Scale-up the international user base of ELIXIR’s services
  2. Improve bioinformatics services by promoting global standards, data-sharing and data annotation
  3. Expand international Membership in, and collaborations with, ELIXIR
  4. Reinforce recognition of ELIXIR as an infrastructure of global significance, and a trusted partner.

Corinne Martin, ELIXIR’s External Relations Officer says “ELIXIR’s services are used by bioinformaticians across the world, to carry out research leading to applications of societal benefits (e.g. personalised medicine, climate resilient crops) - as a distributed research infrastructure, ELIXIR is uniquely placed and experienced to work with countries beyond Europe to share knowledge, jointly develop standards and promote best practices”.

Table detailing the strategic objectives and the corresponding target stakeholders outlined in the International Strategy page 6

Looking ahead

We wish to continue strengthening the bonds we have made, as well as reach out to develop new collaborations with other countries around the world. Here are some areas we plan to work on over the following year:

  • Formalise relationships with NIH and Australian BioCommons by trialling some mutually beneficial activities, e.g. staff exchanges, co-organisation of special sessions at key bioinformatics events, reciprocal invitations to flagship events. 
  • Continue to support the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), following on from the collaboration on the Global Science Forum (GSF): Digital Skills for Data Intensive Science workshop where ELIXIR experts in Training will be presenting and facilitating at the event.
  • Members of the Interoperability Platform will also actively support OECD work to develop the Linked Open Data Platform of Interoperable Repositories to Enable Open Science (LODES) project.
  • Continue to work extensively with the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) as outlined in the Strategic Partnership. 
  • Attend and organise activities at the International Conference on Research Infrastructures to be held in Canada in 2020. 

Further information

The full International Strategy is available online. If you have any questions please contact ELIXIR’s External Relations Officer, Corinne Martin.

Mon 23 September 2019