The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has been awarded a standard grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the development of an international workshop series on the access and benefit sharing of digital sequence information. AIBS is partnering with the USA Nagoya Protocol Action Group (USANPAG) to run this virtual series in late summer and fall of 2021.
Sequences of biological macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA, and proteins (collectively “digital sequence information” or DSI) have become increasingly important to advancing scientific research and discovery worldwide. Information of this kind helps scientists understand how genes affect organisms’ shape, physiology, behavior, and function. In turn, this knowledge provides the raw material for innovations that will advance human health, food security, and the preservation of biodiversity as the climate changes rapidly. The free and unfettered exchange of non-commercial DSI enables the global community of researchers, educators, biodiversity collections managers, students, and innovators, including those in the United States, to work fluidly with each other to enable scientific progress. Such free flow of information is not guaranteed. Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (Nagoya Protocol) will consider whether the access and benefit sharing (ABS) framework should be expanded to regulate DSI, in addition to the physical biological resources they were set up to address, at the next CBD Conference of the Parties to be held in 2022. This could result in limiting access to information that is currently freely available. For the most part, the scientists whose research projects depend on openly sharing DSI do not have a seat at the table at which decisions about DSI are being made. In fact, many scientists are unaware that the conversations are even taking place. It is important to ensure that scientists and scientific societies in the United States and elsewhere become more fully engaged in these deliberations, in part by highlighting the importance of transnational collaborations that depend on the exchange of DSI, and making recommendations for how related benefits can be shared.
In this endeavor, AIBS and USANPAG are now planning a virtual workshop series that will engage scientific societies in co-hosting modules that will educate the community on the issues, perspectives, and requirements that are associated with discussions about regulating DSI in the context of the CBD. The workshops will feature talks from US and international scientists and facilitated discussions tailored to the scientific societies’ concerns. These discussions are intended to help build capacity within societies to accelerate compliant and outstanding biodiversity science across geopolitical borders and to develop recommendations that can inform ongoing policy discussions.
Interested individuals can sign up to receive the latest information and updates as we plan these events at http://io.aibs.org/nagoya.