The European COVID-19 Data Portal—can Europe’s Pandemic Data be Consolidated?

Apr 23, 2020 | Coronavirus, COVID-19, COVID-19 Data Platform, COVID-19 Data Portal, European Bioinformatics Institute, European Commission, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Union

The European COVID-19 Data Portal—can Europe’s Pandemic Data be Consolidated?

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented number of scientific efforts worldwide to combat the pathogen. The seamless sharing of data and intelligence represents one of the biggest challenges faced in what amounts to a war for health and economic survival. As this novel coronavirus is in fact new, an unprecedented number of scientific research initiatives now occur involving the collection of data. That a fragmentation of effort manifests perhaps isn’t a surprise. For example, in America, countless data collection efforts, by state, consortium, university, private sector and federal government now are underway. Various groups moved swiftly in Europe to collect data as well. Hence, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and partners such as ELIXIR and their effort to introduce the COVID-19 data portal—a dedicated data platform that enables the rapid collection and comprehensive data sharing of available research data from different sources for the European and global research communities.

TrialSite News was requested to offer a brief breakdown of this effort.

Who is the portal’s developer?

The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), an international governmental organization, which is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) family, focuses on research and services in bioinformatics. It is located on the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton near Cambridge and employs over 600 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff.

What is EMBL?

With 27 member states, laboratories at six locations across Europe, and thousands of scientists and engineers working together, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is a powerhouse of biological expertise. The intergovernmental organization, based in Heidelberg, was founded in 1974 with the mission of promoting molecular biology research in Europe. EMBL employs about 1,800 people in Barcelona, Grenoble, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Hinxton (UK) and Rome.

What is the goal of developing the COVID-19 Data Platform?

The rapid collection and comprehensive data sharing of available research data from different sources for the European and global research communities. It represents a priority pilot to realize the objectives of the “European Open Science Cloud.” 

What is the European Open Science Cloud?

Financed by the European Commission, this represents an open access publishing platform for scientific articles as a free service for Horizon 2020 beneficiaries. The launch of this ambitious EU open access initiative is planned for early 2021.

What is the European COVID-19 Data Portal?

Launched in April 2020, the European COVID-19 Data Portal brings together different relevant datasets for sharing and analysis in an effort to accelerate coronavirus research. The goal of this portal: provide an easy-to-use aggregation of relevant COVID-19 research to enable researchers to upload, access and analyze COVID-19 related reference data and specialist datasets as part of the wider European COVID-19 Data Platform.

What is the difference between the Data Portal and Data Platform?

The portal is one website that maintains a plethora of novel coronavirus data while the Data Platform involves the creation of multiple SARS-CoV-2 Data Hubs. These hubs are currently being built and, once ready, will organize the flow of sequence data from the outbreak and provide comprehensive open data sharing for the European and global research communities accessible through the Data Portal.

Explain the European COVID-19 Data Platform Initiative

The European COVID-19 Data Platform Initiative, a collaborative effort of the member states mentioned previously, includes two primary components, including 1) SARS-CoV-2 Data Hubs which are planned to organize the flow of sequence data from the outbreak and provide comprehensive open data sharing for the European and global research communities; and 2) the COVID-19 Data Portal—mentioned previously.

Who is behind the COVID-19 Data Platform?

Actually, an initiative and partnership between EMBL-EBI, ELIXIR and the European Commission. Current collaborators working with EMBL-EBI to provide the platform infrastructure include:

  • Erasmus Medical Centre (Netherlands)
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Eotvos Loran University (Hungary)
  • National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (Netherlands)
  • Universitaetsklinikum Heidelberg (Germany)

A driver behind this is the concept of “Open Science”—what is this?

Kostas Glinos, Head of the Open Science Unit for the European Commission first emphasized the importance of this concept, noting, “we need Open Science now more than ever.” As fighting the global pandemic requires a lot of data sharing, such data that is open and freely available represents a major premise for winning the war against COVID-19.  The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) is a trusted digital platform for the scientific community, offering seamless access to data and inter-operable services that address the whole research data cycle, from scientific discovery and mining to storage, management, analysis and re-use across borders and scientific discipline.

What’s the contact to engage with Data Platform project?

Ecovid19@ebi.ac.uk

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