Digital Sequence Information
Digital Sequence Information, or “DSI”, is a policy term that refers broadly to genomic sequence data and other related digital data. This includes the details of an organism’s DNA and RNA, which determine its characteristics and unique traits.
The DSI Scientific Network's mission is to contribute to policymakers and other stakeholders’ understanding of DSI, its applications and contributions to research supporting biodiversity conservation and public health, as well as the global benefits of open access to DSI databases.
In March 2022, negotiations on Digital Sequence Information (DSI) and benefit sharing will resume among Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity as they work to reach agreement on the new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which sets new goals and aims to transform society’s relationship with biodiversity.
The scientific community is the primary generator and user of DSI. The outcome of these negotiations will therefore shape our ability to use DSI and generate research that helps move forward sustainable development, protect biodiversity and address global health crises. Given the importance of DSI to our work, it is essential that our perspectives, expertise and experience be included in considerations of different approaches to benefit sharing for DSI.
DSI is used by researchers in a wide of contexts including for studying and monitoring biodiversity, understanding ecosystem impacts from climate change, improving crops, developing new medicines, and tracking the spread and evolution of new infectious diseases. Access to DSI is therefore crucial to research supporting many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
A wide range of organizations and experts have called for DSI policy solutions that provide equitable benefit-sharing through multilateral mechanisms that protect open access DSI.
DSI open letter
The Network, in partnership with other major international scientific organizations, has published an Open Letter advocating for equitable benefit-sharing solutions for DSI that preserve open sharing and promote biodiversity conservation. As COP15 negotiations resume, this is a key moment that may shape how DSI can be used and accessed for decades to come, and for researchers around the world. The Network invites other scientific organizations, national academies and individual researchers to join their voice to theirs by co-signing the Open Letter.
Open letter text
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, diverse representatives of the global research community, recognize that this is a critical moment for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Outcomes of the CBD Conference of the Parties in 2022 (COP 15) will shape the use of and access to Digital Sequence Information (DSI) for decades to come.
Open access to DSI and related data are important elements in any policy solution, as DSI has enabled ground-breaking advances in many fields of research and underpins the generation of knowledge and common goods that benefit us all.
At the same time, we recognize the sovereign right of nations over their natural resources, including their genetic resources, and the role and interests of indigenous peoples and local communities. Sensible solutions must be found that ensure fair and equitable benefit sharing from DSI.
We acknowledge the challenge that policymakers face in finding suitable compromises on this important issue. We believe that researchers who work with DSI can make an important contribution to the effort by countries to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different policy options, and thereby aid the development of a fair and equitable system that will deliver benefit-sharing while protecting open access, supporting research and innovation, and promoting biodiversity conservation.
We, therefore, call on Parties to the CBD to:
- Ensure that researchers are given a voice in the process of developing national positions, in the weighing of DSI options, and in formal and informal CBD processes.
- Listen to calls from the scientific community for multilateral benefit-sharing approaches that incentivize the generation and contribution of DSI to the global system.
- Ensure that the outcomes of these negotiations reflect the reality of the scientific process and account for the thousands of interlinked databases that currently serve billions of sequences to millions of users around the world.
- Support open access to DSI. Open access drives research and innovation, improves scientific reproducibility, enables rapid responses to public health crises, facilitates capacity building and international collaborations, and promotes training and education.
- Learn from the experience of the Nagoya Protocol and other treaties, and avoid new systems for DSI that would increase regulatory complexity and costs of research, disproportionately affecting developing countries where resources are particularly scarce.
A balanced approach must be found that protects openness and ensures benefit sharing if we wish to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and implement the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Without an open and equitable solution to DSI, the scientific community will be hindered in its ability to conduct research and develop solutions for current environmental and health crises.
Sign the letter
You can sign the letter here.