Science is based on data. Research datasets are constantly growing in size and complexity. Due to advances in methods and approaches over time, novel analyses can be carried out to extract new knowledge from older datasets. However, it is essential that the data is properly stored and curated, and that it can be easily retrieved when needed. Expanding datasets will thus require advancements in the development of data infrastructures.
Dynamic Network of Consortiums
In 2016, the German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures recommended the establishment of a National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) – as a foundation for the management of research data in Germany. The objective was to create a dynamic, growing, cooperative network consisting of specialized interconnected points, which are the individual consortiums. Coordination of the biodiversity consortium is managed by MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Science at the University of Bremen, with Professor Frank Oliver Glöckner as spokesperson.
Each individual thematic consortium is obliged to ensure that the data is stored consistently and in a compatible manner. The principles of “FAIR Data” apply. In this context, FAIR stands for “Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable”. As Frank Oliver Glöckner explains, this is very important because most of the existing research data was obtained through publicly financed research. It is thus self-evident that everyone should have access to it. In addition to NFDI4BioDiversity, the NFDI4Health, NFDI4Ing, and KonsortSWD consortiums are being funded.
“Access to Extensive Research Data Is Crucial”
Partners in the NFDI4BioDiversity Consortium cooperate in the fields of biodiversity, ecology and environmental data. Here, however, the term “biodiversity” means more than just the diversity of species. It also includes genetic diversity, functional diversity, and the interactions and diversities of entire ecosystems. “At a time when a million species are threatened with extinction, the access to comprehensive high-quality research data is crucial for the current decisions facing politicians and society,” says Professor Frank Oliver Glöckner.
Bremen’s Senator for Science, Dr. Claudia Schilling, is excited that the scientific community in Bremen, with four out of nine selected consortiums, will play an important role in the NFDI: “This achievement once again illustrates the strength of the University of Bremen and the Bremen research institutes and, moreover, comprises a broad range of topics. Through participation in the NFDI, research in Bremen will further develop its international connections and thus also generate its own momentum. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this success.”
The DFG has been funding the GFBio project (German Federation for Biological Data) in Bremen since 2013. GFBio integrates technical, organizational, financial, and scientific elements to raise awareness of the importance of data management in biodiversity research and the environmental sciences. NFDI4BioDiversity builds on this experience as well as on the community of users. GFBio already incorporates data centers for nucleotide and environmental data as well as the seven established data centers of the largest natural science research institutes of Germany, museums, and the world’s most diverse microbiological resource collection. The network is now being expanded to include the network of botanical gardens with the largest collections of cultivated and wild plants.
Beginning in the fall of 2020, the NFDI4BioDiversity consortium will be funded with up to 25 million euros for an initial period of five years. Throughout Germany, 49 university and non-university partner institutes are involved.
Prof. Dr. Frank Oliver Glöckner
MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen and Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research
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