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Sharing data, exchanging expertise and coordinating tools for an effective COVID-19 response

A European research infrastructure for life science data is supporting global scientific efforts to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Health

Despite the unprecedented number of scientific initiatives taking place worldwide in the fight against COVID-19, sharing data and findings in a coordinated and rapid way to develop treatments and vaccines has been challenging. The EU-funded ELIXIR-CONVERGE project is addressing exactly this issue by bringing together research data from health systems across Europe. ELIXIR CONVERGE, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory – European Bioinformatics Institute, and several collaborators are deploying a European COVID-19 data platform to help accelerate the collection and sharing of comprehensive data from different sources for the European and global research communities. The COVID-19 Data Portal will be connected to the European Open Science Cloud. “The COVID-19 Data Portal will enable researchers to upload, access and analyse COVID-19 related reference data and specialist datasets. The COVID-19 Data Portal will be the primary entry point into the functions of a wider project, the European COVID-19 Data Platform,” according to the Data Portal’s ‘About’ section. The two connected components of the European COVID-19 Data Platform are “SARS-CoV-2 Data Hubs, which will organise the flow of SARS-CoV-2 outbreak sequence data and provide comprehensive open data sharing for the European and global research communities,” and “COVID-19 Data Portal, which will bring together and continuously update relevant COVID-19 datasets and tools, will host sequence data sharing and will facilitate access to other SARS-CoV-2 resources.” Quoted in a news item, ELIXIR Director Dr Niklas Blomberg comments: “We need to develop generally applicable methods that let researchers access relevant data across countries. Data might have to stay where it originated but that doesn’t mean you can’t research on that data.” According to the same news item, Dr Blomberg emphasises how “the pandemic has underlined Europe’s need for an infrastructure where researchers can find and compare health data which would help policy makers take better decisions in future crises.”

Coordinated action

ELIXIR-CONVERGE (Connect and align ELIXIR Nodes to deliver sustainable FAIR life-science data management services) that supports the COVID-19 Data Portal will run until January 2023. It was set up to help standardise life science data management across Europe. “The initial operational phase of ELIXIR, supported by the H2020 ELIXIR-EXCELERATE project (2015-19), focussed on the coordination and delivery of bioinformatics services from national Nodes,” as stated on the project website. “This lay the foundation for a coordinated European life science infrastructure. ELIXIR-CONVERGE will build on these achievements to deliver another critical component: the provisioning, across Europe, of distributed local support for data management. This will be based on a toolkit for researchers that enables lifecycle management for their research data, in compliance with international standards.” The ELIXIR-CONVERGE project will help “create a European data federation where interconnected national operations allow users to extract knowledge from life science’s large, diverse and distributed datasets.” The project involves 29 institutes in 22 countries. For more information, please see: ELIXIR-CONVERGE project website

Keywords

ELIXIR-CONVERGE, ELIXIR, COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, data

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