Open access to biological data
Considerable moral and ethical arguments support the view that basic life science information constitutes a testament of human and natural evolution and advancement. As such, this wealth of knowledge should be freely available for all to access, study and process.
Open access to life science data is essential for advances in many areas of research. For example, it is crucial for:
- understanding plant genomes in order to identify drought-, salt- and pest-resistant species
- identifying patterns of genes that are active in different tumours
- tracking transmission of diseases such as MRSA by identifying small variations in DNA sequence
- identifying the targets of existing medicines against drug-resistant parasitic infections like Schistosomiasis
- using DNA barcoding to catalogue life as a vital step in protecting endangered species and sustaining natural resources through pest control and accurate food labelling.
For researchers in academia as well as industry, open access to bioinformatics resources provides a valuable path to discovery, one that in many other areas of research is limited by commercial confidentiality.
Charging for that data, or seeking to restrict access through exercising Intellectual Property (IP) rights, would seriously impede the ability of research and industrial organisations to exploit data and return benefits – indeed many potential discoveries would be lost to legal red-tape processes and contractual wrangles.
It is therefore vital to maintain open access to biological data. This view is strongly supported by industry, which appreciates the pre-competitive value of accessing valuable data free of charge.*
Speaking with a single voice
ELIXIR, as a pan-European bioinformatics infrastructure principally funded by public funds, will guarantee that open access to biological data is maintained. Speaking with a single voice will strengthen Europe’s influence in such global discussions.
*Data derived from individual humans is rarely completely open access for reasons of personal security and privacy, but providing secure access to such data is also a priority for future research