Access to and sharing of Life Science data globally requires well-functioning Research Data Infrastructures (RDIs). RDIs need to provide access to the wide range of life science data repositories. Within Europe access to data repositories is currently fragmented among some large centres - such as the EBI and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics - and many smaller centres, many located within Universities or Research Institutes, which also provide high quality data resources and research tools. ELIXIR (www.elixir-europe.org) is the Europe-wide approach to addressing bringing this wide range of resources under the umbrella of the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures). A Europe-wide approach is an essential first step towards a global solution which will be needed as Life Science becomes a Big Data science on a comparable scale to particle physics and astronomy.
ELIXIR coordinates the sharing of resources provided by its constituent members, which currently number 19 countries plus EMBL. Each member provides data resources, tools and other services such as training to ELIXIR via a Node; the UK national node is ELIXIR-UK (EBI is EMBL’s Node). ELIXIR-UK (www.elixir-uk.org) is a distributed network led by the Earlham Institute (its “Lead Entity”). The ELIXIR Hub at Hinxton is ELIXIR’s coordinating entity; it does not provide any infrastructure resources of its own. The UK was one of the first nation-states to sign up to the ELIXIR vision and its participation was announced in the Government’s 2011 'Strategy for UK Life Sciences'.
The benefits of UK participation in ELIXIR are two-way:
• From a UK perspective, ELIXIR provides leading UK researchers the opportunity to participate in and shape the development of a major global player, allowing UK innovation in this area to have maximum impact in laying down future technologies and data standards. It provides access to training across the national nodes, giving the opportunity to raise skills levels in an area critical for future economic development.
• From a European and global perspective, it provides access to UK expertise in data resources, tools and training expertise which is world class.
- ELIXIR is an intergovernmental organisation (NOT an EU body) that has the remit to provide integrated life science data across Europe and beyond.
- ELIXIR is formally a special project of the EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory).
- The UK formally joined ELIXIR in September 2013.
- The following 20 states and organisations are currently members of ELIXIR: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, EMBL-EBI, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. In addition Greece is expecting to join in the near future.
- ELIXIR is made up of a Hub (based at Hinxton in the UK) and individual nodes based in the member states and EMBL-EBI.
- The nodes are the key entities in ELIXIR’s organisation as they provide the resources and services ELIXIR will make available.
- Resources and services are made available under five headings, or platforms: Data, Tools, Computing Infrastructure, Interoperability Infrastructure and Training.
- The role of the ELIXIR Hub is to coordinate the activity taking place within individual nodes of the organisation.
- For clarity, EBI (European Bioinformatics Institute; EMBL-EBI) is the EMBL Node of ELIXIR and is not part of the UK Node. The UK Node represents non-EBI UK-based bioinformatics activities in the organisation.
- ELIXIR-UK is coordinated from the Earlham Institute in Norwich (formerly The Genome Analysis Centre) and led by its Head of Node (Prof. Carole Goble, University of Manchester).
- The Lead Entity (Earlham) and Head of Node are selected by the Node’s three Research Council funders: BBSRC, MRC and NERC.
- The Research Councils provide lightweight funding for the coordination activities of the Node but do not provide funding for the Node’s resources and services directly via ELIXIR-UK. Services and resources are expected to raise their own funding through a diversity of funding schemes.
- ELIXIR is seen as a high-status international activity.
It was prioritised by the EU Competitiveness Council alongside the European Plate Observing System (EPOS) and the European Spallation Source (ESS) and identified as a Landmark in the 2016 ESFRI roadmap.
The G7's Group of Senior Officials has categorised ELIXIR as an infrastructure of global potential.
ELIXIR has global reach, leading high-level discussion with the NIH in the USA and in Canada and Australia.
Core ELIXIR resources will gain recognition comparable to that provided by EBI and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.
- Access to the ELIXIR and ELIXIR-UK badges will therefore be an indicator of quality for UK research groups and institutions and is likely to assist in future funding applications.
- Because of its non-EU status and close links to the EU and ESFRI, ELIXIR provides a potential route for ELIXIR-UK members to receive EU funding despite Brexit. This can be done once the UK Node has signed its Collaboration Agreement with ELIXIR, which is expected to take place by the end of 2016. ELIXIR-UK can then receive funds from the EU via ELIXIR as a Linked Third Party.
- ELIXIR-UK provides a conduit for UK researchers in bioinformatics to participate in ELIXIR R&D activities. Benefits of participation are two-way:
- The opportunity to influence the development of a project of global reach, increasing the impact of UK research globally
- The opportunity to collaborate with other world-leading research institutions, bringing in new collaboration opportunities and expertise to the UK.
- ELIXIR-UK is currently undergoing reorganisation to give it a legal structure compatible with ELIXIR’s requirements. This will enable it to be formally recognised by ELIXIR as a Node.
- ELIXIR-UK will in future be formed of a networked consortium bound together by a Node Consortium Agreement (NCA).
- The relationship of the NCA to other documents required to establish the Node formally are summarised in Figure 1:
Figure 1: Documents required to establish the UK Node of ELIXIR
- Signature of the NCA is a requirement for receiving funding via ELIXIR or participating in ELIXIR activities.
- The governance structure of the node as established by the Node Consortium Agreement are summarised in Figure 2:
Figure 2: Governance structure of the ELIXIR-UK consortium. Here RC = Research Council; HoN = Head of Node; dHoN = Deputy Head of Node; NC = Node Coordinator; TeC = Technical Coordinator; TrC = Training Coordinator; WG = Working Group set up by the Management Committee
- Confirm that as a Consortium member they wish to collaborate to deliver ELIXIR by fulfilling their role as a constituent part of ELIXIR-UK. This does not imply any financial commitment.
- Recognise that the Earlham Institute (the Lead Entity) and the Head of Node will enter into the Collaboration Agreement (CA) and its Warranties Annex on behalf of ELIXIR-UK (see Figure 1) and carry out all the resultant obligations, including:
- monitoring project activities and implementing, monitoring and enforcing ELIXIR Commissioned Services Contracts;
- delivering the ELIXIR-UK Service Delivery Plan;
- ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations and best practices (including ethics);
- implementing ELIXIR Board decisions made under the CA;
- implementing ELIXIR policies;
- implementing ELIXIR Director instructions and guidelines;and
- establishing and implementing quality assurance mechanisms.
- Agree to the governance structure laid down for the node and agree to participate in the Node’s Steering Committee by sending a representative (and optionally an additional observer).
- Recognise that the Earlham Institute may receive, manage, and disburse funds on behalf of the Project as directed by the Management Committee.
It is intended to lay the Collaboration Agreement before the ELIXIR Board meeting on November 21-22 2016 for approval.
The prerequisite of this is that the Earlham Institute, the Head of Node and Manchester University have signed the Warranties Annex that accompanies the Collaboration Agreement
When the Collaboration Agreement is approved and signed the UK Node formally becomes part of ELIXIR and can receive funds via Commissioned Service Contracts, Implementation Studies and other instruments
As we understand it there is no requirement for any individual other institutional member to have signed the Node Consortium Agreement by November 21st. However only signatories are able to receive funding via the Node and we are keen to get as many signatories as possible before then.