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  • Open Access alliance on genomic data

    - Netherlands eScience Center will cooperate with the top Chinese institute BGI on open access to genomic data. eScience director Prof Jacob de Vlieg believes that “this is a very exciting initiative to promote ‘Big Data’ driven scientific discoveries in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics”.

    eScience Center will enter a collaboration with the Netherlands Institute of Bioinformatics (NBIC), the Technological Top Institute of Green Genetics (TTI GG) and the Chinese Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI). Goal of the alliance will be to foster open access in genomics and bioinformatics. The group wants to "encourage collaborative initiatives and community building in the areas of data management, infrastructure and analysis within their respective programmes."

    BGI gained particular fame last year when it managed to completely sequence the bacterium causing the "cucumber" EHEC epidemic. Only last month, the Chinese institute expanded its European operations by opening its first sequencing center in Denmark. Netherlands eScience Center itself has gone to great lengths in promoting open access. The organization's two chairman, Amandus Lundqvist and Jos Engelen, explained their vision in an interview with ScienceGuide.

    Full press statement by BGI

    BGI, the world's largest genomics organisation, Technological Top Institute of Green Genetics (TTI GG), Netherlands eScience Centre (NLeSC), and Netherlands Institute of Bioinformatics (NBIC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address the challenge of managing, transporting, integrating and analysing today's tremendous flow of genomic data. The collaborating organisations advocate the adoption and application of Open Source and Open Access initiatives to genomic data to more easily and rapidly explore the mysteries of life science.

    Genomic data generation is accelerating at an exponential rate, driven by the rapid development of high-throughput sequencing technologies, posing new demands and challenges for data handling, storage and transmission. Under the MOU, researchers from BGI, TTI GG, NLeSC and NBIC have agreed to encourage collaborative initiatives and community building in the areas of data management, infrastructure and analysis within their respective programmes. Such collaboration will encourage the development and sharing of services, infrastructure and facilities with the goal of enabling more sustainable and effective access and understanding of genomic data.

    BGI has conducted considerable research to tackle the flood of genomic data. In late 2011, it developed a BGI-BOX cloud computing terminal server for users lacking a bioinformatics background to access genomic data and bioinformatics analyses in their own laboratories. In addition, BGI and open-access publisher BioMed Central launchedGigaScience,a new combined database and journal focused on the publication and hosting of large-scale data. The journal makes it possible for the release of large data sets more rapidly to the wider research community.

    "Genomics revolutionized the life sciences," said Professor Jian Wang, president of BGI, "but the growing flood of genomic data poses an enormous challenge to optimizing and sustaining the benefit of high-throughput sequencing technologies. BGI has made significant efforts to tackle this challenge to advancing life science research, and this cooperative agreement should provide an example for researchers worldwide on the importance and value of shared, sustainable data management and data manipulation in biological and medical studies."

    The signing of MOU provides an opportunity for scientists from China and Netherlands to achieve powerful cooperation for better taming tremendous data. Dr. Bernard de Geus, director of TTI GG, said in brief, "Big data: Big expectation, big challenge, big opportunity." TTI GG has been established jointly by Dutch companies in the area of plant breeding and propagation, universities and knowledge institutions with the mission being to promote research and education and to create continuity in Dutch knowledge and education base.

    NLeSC is a joint initiative by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research NWO and SURF, which supports and reinforces multidisciplinary and data-intensive research througheScience, the creative and innovative use of ICT and e-infrastructures in all its manifestations with the aim to change scientific practice by enabling large-scale "Big Data" analysis across multiple disciplines. Professor dr. Jacob de Vlieg, director of NLeSC, said, "This is a very exciting initiative to link minds and eScience concepts between scientists from BGI and the Netherlands, and to promote 'Big Data' driven scientific discoveries in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics."

    NBIC, the national networked organization of bioinformatics, pursues innovation in life sciences R&D through seamless integration of life science data, information and models in the quantitative analysis of biological systems. Dr. Barend Mons, Scientific director of NBIC, stated, "As soon as one measures anything in the 'Omics' era, one needs computers even to manage the data. For understanding them and turning them into knowledge, computational methods are indispensable and traditional methods of information sharing are hopelessly out of date. We should work together to face this challenge."


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