While the United Nations closed its 4th Intergovernmental Conference (IGC4) on a future governing instrument for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (High Seas Treaty), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) resumed in mid-March its preparatory meetings to reach an agreement on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at the forthcoming COP15 in Kunming, China this year.
Despite a call by a European-led coalition at the One Ocean Summit in Brest earlier this year, the High Seas Treaty, including modalities for accessing and utilising marine genetic resources, will not be adopted before next year. The CBD COP15 in Kunming this autumn will agree on the international framework applied to access and use of genetic sequence data and other data issued from genetic resources (‘digital sequence information’ or DSI).
The scientific community using genetic resources is contributing to these international debates by urging policymakers to adopt modalities that would not impair open science practices. The research community in Europe initiated the launch of an international group in that respect: the DSI Scientific Network. This group promotes a constructive dialogue between science and the negotiators to these international conventions.
The DSI Scientific Network published an open letter ahead of the CBD preparatory session, calling 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.
EMBRC, a European research infrastructure whose missions include the sustainable use of marine bioresources, supports this call and a new approach to benefit-sharing. While implementing its best practices on access and benefit-sharing (ABS), EMBRC is working to increase transparency and trust in the management and traceability of bioresources ‘from sampling to data’ to ensure maximum benefit for all.