Experts on Digital Sequence Information (DSI) debated the implications of an Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) system for DSI in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), reflecting on lessons learned from existing ABS arrangements, such as under the Nagoya Protocol and the ITPGRFA.
Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director, Accelerated Crop Improvement, ICRISAT, chaired and moderated the Asia Pacific experts’ panel discussion in the webinar, “A Multilateral Solution to the DSI Dilemma?” focused on researchers’ experience and priorities regarding DSI. The panel included eminent scientists and thought leaders Drs Mutsuaki Suzuki, National Institute of Genetics, Japan; Charles Lawson, Griffith University, Australia; Eizadora T Yu, The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines, Philippines; Amber Scholz, DSMZ Leibniz Institute, Germany; and Yogesh Shouche, National Center for Microbial Resource, India.
The group shared a common view and highlighted that DSI and its free accessibility are essential for all areas of the life sciences, including biodiversity research, food security, human health, etc. If a benefit-sharing model is to be solely based on the country of origin of the DSI, this may benefit just a few countries. For example, while low- and middle-income countries may not be a significant contributor to the majority of DSI, scientists from these countries access the information just like researchers from other regions, and if this is restricted, it will hamper the progress of science. “As the current model for DSI is ‘open-access’, it enables scientific reproducibility, enforces scientific integrity, and enables global non-monetary benefit sharing, including scientific capacity building in developing countries, precisely because everything is open, free and reusable,” said Dr Varshney.
The panel agreed that such webinars are very important for designing a multi-lateral system for ABS for DSI. To this end, capacity building of both public and private sectors will be crucial, and such webinars will play a very important role in sensitizing scientists and policymakers towards appreciating the role of DSI and ABS, to make an informed decision when addressing the challenges and considering options for developing a win-win system.
Dr Varshney called the webinar, which was held on 5 July 2021, a great learning experience and hoped that he would be able to contribute more towards this global cause for the benefit of science and the scientific community. He thanked the DSI Scientific Network, especially Ms Isabelle Coche and her team for organizing the highly topical webinar.
Focused on the Asia Pacific region, this was the first in a series of webinars, with others scheduled for Latin America, Africa, and Europe, and North America. For more details, visit the Digital Sequence Information (DSI) Scientific Network website.
Mr Nilesh Mishra, Senior Scientific Officer, ICRISAT,
Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, Accelerated Crop Improvement, ICRISAT.