DivSeek hosts roundtable discussion in San Diego

On the 8th of January over 80 individuals from DivSeek partner organisations and other interested parties came together in San Diego to learn about progress from the Steering Committee and discuss DivSeek’s role and identity in the larger landscape, its organizational structure, and its role in promoting the exchange of genetic diversity data.

After a welcome from the DivSeek Chairperson, the latest iteration of the landscape study was presented, collating information about projects in areas of relevance to DivSeek (presentation available here). A total of 95 projects have been identified to date either by DivSeek partners or via web-based searches. Those present at the meeting noted the usefulness of the study. It was suggested to convert it to an online resource for the community to enrich the project registry, promote interactions among projects and identify methods and best practices. This would require more detailed and in-depth data and metadata collection, and inclusion of more projects from developing countries. 

The workshop participants provided feedback on the development and implementation of the interim work plan for DivSeek. The plan revolved around developing use-cases as the foundation of a biodiversity informatics platform, ensuring interoperability with open-source informatics initiatives and providing support for hosting diversity data for less well-resourced crop species. In particular, the workshop discussed the repurposing of tools to enable genebanks to use genomics data for conservation and to stimulate the use of crop diversity in breeding. Other components of the programme of work that were discussed were community building, standard setting and communication to partners and stakeholders. 

To implement this plan, DivSeek continues to construct and apply a governance framework that serves its mission. In particular, DivSeek is investigating a variety of operational models, including a single team leader model for the organization, to enable the initiative to remain responsive as a partners’ organization while realizing concrete activities for the benefit of interested parties. The workshop was an opportunity to advance on this work track by collecting views and experiences from scientists working under different organizational models. 

Enabling gene banks to use genomic and phenotypic data for better conservation and use of germplasm is central to DivSeek, and having permanent unique identifiers (PUIs) to identify germplasm from which data has been derived would be a major step forward. The workshop discussed why PUIs are essential and considered metadata that need to be associated with PUIs, so that genebank managers can track accessions within and across genebanks and researchers can be assured they are working with and using the same material (presentation available here). 

Before the meeting closed, a number of DivSeek partners presented concepts and ideas for community workshops that would assist with community building, standard setting and capacity building. Topics put forward by members included:

  1. Definition of use cases for genomic data in genebanks which bring together PGR management, PGR user and the genomic research community
  2. Standards for managing and integrating crop genetic resource, genomic, phenomic and breeding data crucial for global food security
  3. Update the DivSeek community about pertinent international laws and regulations that determine access to plant genetic resources and the sharing of the benefits arising from their use.

The Steering Committee will now work with individuals and organizations to find the best mechanism to progress the ideas expressed at the workshop.

Looking forward, DivSeek will elect new Steering Committee members in March and will hold its formal Partners’ Assembly on 17 June 2016 in Saskatoon.