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Integration of genomics and biodiversity research: implementation of an international platform

Final Report Summary - MOLCONNECT (Integration of genomics and biodiversity research: implementation of an international platform)

The MOLCONNECT consortium was aiming at the establishment of a new scientific information and communication platform to discuss potential applications of cutting-edge genomics tools for high throughput and multi-parallel analysis in biodiversity and ecosystems research. Partners from two research fields will be assembled:
(a) those that are experts in biodiversity and ecosystems research; and
(b) those that have a strong knowledge base in the field of genomics research.
Through the workshop the opportunity was given to researchers to meet and implement the first ideas for projects or programmes with potential in the future. The activities at the interface between genomics and biodiversity research focused on researchers from Europe in cooperation with experts from Latin America. Expertise in biodiversity research in Latin America has a very high level based on the hot spots of biodiversity in some countries like Costa Rica, Colombia or Brazil. The integration of this knowledge with the expertise from Europe was expected to result in the generation of completely new approaches with benefits for European and Latin American researchers.

The homepage http://www.molconnect.org was created with a database connecting researchers across disciplines and continents. The homepage is based on a content management system Indole (please see http://www.indole.de online) that is extremely easy to handle and maintain. It was constructed as a system that can be easily updated and expanded. We decided to provide three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese to achieve an optimal forum and dissemination in Latin America and Europe.

A database was created to achieve a better linking of the researchers interested in cooperation between genomics and biodiversity research.

To avoid redundancies and to gain an overview about research topics, groups, networks, initiatives, research institutions possibly interested in discussions about bridging genomics and biodiversity research we had to screen the available information. This information was essential for the implementation of the project and represents the basis for building the information platform. The collection and sorting of information was therefore the first main part of the project. As the spectrum and type of information was very broad the time segment for this investigation had to be large. We collected more than 500 names and institutions that we later on informed about MOLCONNECT and the up-coming workshop in Bogotá. We are aware that the collection is not complete, but we expect that due to the future activities step by step we will fill gaps and achieve a more complete overview.

The initiative of MOLCONNECT achieved its principle project aims and the specific objectives during the funding period. Besides the development of new ideas and initiatives at the interface between genomics and biodiversity research, we achieved another very important aim, and that is the improvement of the interaction and communication between European and Latin America researchers. It was very positively appraised by the participants that we were managing the discussions across the continents. Via the MOLCONNECT project, we could, therefore, not only raise awareness and interest for the respective new research perspectives, but could also raise awareness and interest in the research going on in Europe and Latin America. It became obvious that one future activity line must be the improvement of information flow between the continents.

We achieved the creation of a joint communication and information platform at the interface between genomics and biodiversity research. Via the homepage and the database, we created a tool that helps the maintenance of contacts and the flow of information. The dissemination of information about the initiative MOLCONNECT raised awareness among the research communities and also raised curiosity in many researchers. Selected topics that have been discussed during the project and in detail during the workshop are valuable for specific follow-up activities in the future.

Via the MOLCONNECT initiative and specifically, via the workshop, interest was raised for the research at the interface between genomics and biodiversity research. Discussions between the representatives of the different research areas have been initiated by MOLCONNECT. Because the connection between the two research fields has been missing in the past no or only very little interaction was present. Based on the opportunity of the MOLCONNECT activities and specifically via the workshop, the invited experts have been discussing very lively and created innovative ideas.

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