It's been nearly a year since we last wrote about Elixir, the European research infrastructure project looking to support life-science information. Our friends at the European Bioinformatics Institute made us aware at the time that a pan-European project was under way to build and operate a sustainable infrastructure for managing and safeguarding biological information including genetic, protein and complex network analysis outputs.
So what's been happening in the intervening period?
Another seven countries have signed the Memorandum of Understanding in that time, broadening the remit and support-base for the initiative. The wider this base the better in light of the organisation's assertion that "the collection, curation, storage, archiving, integration and deployment of biomolecular data is an immense challenge that cannot be handled by a single organisation or by one country alone, but requires international coordination."
The European Commission's Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) page on the project indicates that the first phase of funding is due to come to an end in December 2012 having run for five years. The project's aims over that period were all directed at gaining the widest possible support for the initiative by means of Memoranda of Understanding and included defining:
- The scope of the infrastructure, its role and benefits
- An appropriate governance and legal structure
- A long term funding structure to provide a sustainable infrastructure
- The requirements for the European Data Centre in the next 5-10 years
- The critical interdisciplinary links that need to be forged between the biological and related scientific disciplines, including medicine, agriculture and the environment
- The needs of related European industries
- A training strategy to ensure that Europe effectively exploits all the available information
In carrying out this work Elixir assert that they were committed to involving all relevant stakeholders including users, data providers, tools providers to ensure that the infrastructure designed would be fit for purpose and exploring interoperability and supporting standards facilitating the between integration between core and specialised data resources.
Back in November 2011, we were anticipating the the Interim Board's announcement of the first phase of construction, however, we should point out that this period in Elixir's development is still the Preparatory Phase which title may make sense of the difficulty we've had finding concrete outputs from the project - the website for the Preparatory Phase is a little low-tech and also a little out of date - for more up-to-the-minute news see the Press Releases page on the main Elixir site from which you can see that much of the recent news involves the 'on-boarding' of various different European states but also covers the inception of their newsletter and, of most interest to us, the start of a new initiative co-ordinted by Elixir: BioMedBridges.
In their own words: "BioMedBridges is a joint effort of ten biomedical sciences research infrastructures on the ESFRI roadmap. Together, the project partners will develop the shared e-infrastructure—the technical bridges—to allow interoperability between data and services in the biological, medical, translational and clinical domains and thus strengthen biomedical resources in Europe. Launched in January 2012, the four-year initiative has been financed with €10.6 million by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme."