A distributed infrastructure for life-science information
Why ELIXIR is needed
To manage the huge increase in life science data
The fall in price of DNA and RNA sequencers in the last ten years has meant that life science is producing huge amounts of data. It is estimated that by 2020 life science data will be generated at a million times the current rate. By themselves most research centres do not have the facilities to store or transfer this much data, or the expertise to analyse it.
By creating a network of supercomputer services that is accessible across Europe, ELIXIR is making it easier for researchers to manage this ‘data deluge’. It is enabling researchers to use existing facilities to store, transfer and analyse huge data sets.
Life science data exists in a wide range of formats, and is described in different ways. This makes it difficult to merge data sets and analyse the data. ELIXIR’s Interoperability Platform is finding ways to standardise the way we save and describe data, and the Training Platform is running courses on dealing with large and complex data sets.
To make it easier to find the right tools and training
Biological science increasingly involves large amounts of data and it is not easy to find the right software to analyse this data. If a researcher finds the right software for what they want to do, they have to learn how to use it. For this, and handling large data sets in general, they need specialist training.
ELIXIR has built a tools registry to make it easier to find the right research tools. The Tools Platform also benchmarks tools for quality to help scientists make more informed choices. The Training Platform makes it easier more people to learn how to use these tools, and how to manage large data sets in general. Through its ‘Train the Trainer’ programme it also keeps the trainers themselves up to date with current best practices.
To build a more robust bioinformatics infrastructure
Bioinformatics is a discipline that uses computer programmes to gain insights from large data sets, particularly data from gene sequencers. Some countries in Europe have mature bioinformatics services, where people can access large data sets. Other countries, though, are still developing their resources and they would benefit from the expertise of more mature services.
ELIXIR promotes an exchange of knowledge and support around Europe so that smaller bioinformatics resources are helped to grow and join a pan-European infrastructure. This makes new data sets available to researchers across Europe and allows them gain further insights into disease and normal function in living organisms.
To drive innovation and industry usage
The infrastructure ELIXIR sets up will make life science data around Europe more accessible, and provide easier ways to analyse and gain new insights from this data. These new insights will stimulate innovations in biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in agricultural and environmental research. The innovations will help in job creation as well as help address some of the global problems we face, like an ageing population, environmental degradation and dwindling supplies of food and fuel.
Handling and analysing the massive amounts of data now generated in life science often takes more resources than agri-business and biotech firms often have. One solution is to collaborate with public services like ELIXIR. ELIXIR runs an industry programme that promotes these collaborations not just within Europe but across the globe. See the Industry support.