Giving the scientific community a voice on Digital Sequence Information

Effective and equitable sharing of DNA and RNA data on organisms are crucial to biodiversity conservation, public health and research innovation. Researchers must speak out for sensible policy solutions.

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What is DSI?

Digital Sequence Information, or “DSI”, is a policy term that refers broadly to genomic sequence data and other related digital data. This includes the details of an organism’s DNA and RNA, which determine its characteristics and unique traits. There is yet no consensus as to the exact interpretation and scope of the term (for example whether it refers only to nucleotide sequences or also to the proteins and metabolites they encode).

  • Recent advances in sequencing technology and synthetic biology have made it easier than ever before to sequence, store, and share segments of DNA and RNA virtually.
  • DSI policies outcomes will have far-reaching implications for researchers that generate and use DSI.
  • DSI and its policy implications for access and benefit-sharing are currently being discussed among Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and in other fora.

Why is DSI important?

DSI underpins vast swathes of current research in the life sciences, and has contributed to significant advances in medicine, conservation, agriculture, and other fields. All countries use and provide DSI, and it is used for basic and applied research in both the public and private sector.

kenya dsi share network

DSI from Kenya

Used by 79 countries worldwide, while scientists in Kenya use DSI from 83 countries.

Visit the WiLDSI Data Portal to explore further

DSI from Brazil

Used by 111 countries, while scientists in Brazil use DSI from 153 countries.

Visit the WiLDSI Data Portal to explore further

Brazil DSI share network

What happened at COP15?

In December 2022, important steps forward were made during the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Montreal, Canada. Parties agreed on the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which sets out 4 global strategic goals and 23 targets to guide biodiversity conservation and its sustainable use over the next decades. As part of the package of decisions taken to support and enable achievement of the GBF, Parties also agreed to  work over the next two years to develop a multilateral system for benefit sharing from DSI.

The adoption of the decision on DSI is an important and positive step forward in recognizing the important role that use and sharing of DSI can play to support food security, biodiversity, and public health, and in recognizing the need for its benefits to be shared fairly and equitably.

A DSI Scientific Network delegation of 23 experts from 15 countries participated in COP15, to share their experience as users, generators and managers of DSI, and represent the perspective of the scientific community. Read the highlights of the most important results related to DSI in the Network’s outcome statement:

The Network organized two events during COP15:

  • Side event “A comparative analysis of policy options for DSI under the CBD: how do they measure up?” on 8 December 2022


  • DSI session on the 5th Science-Policy Forum “What capacity building for digital sequence information can offer” on 12 December 2022

DSI Case Studies: real-life examples from the use of DSI and the development of its applications

These three exemplary case studies showcase how open access, benefit sharing, and capacity development are strongly intertwined and inextricably cross-cut the global day-to-day use of DSI in technology and research.

This is a contribution of the DSI Scientific Network to the discussion on the creation of a multilateral system for DSI benefit sharing during the CBD intersessional period, and a call to the policy makers to take the research needs in consideration.

The DSI Scientific Network (est 2020)

The Network’s mission is to contribute to policymakers and other stakeholders’ understanding of DSI, its applications and contributions to research supporting biodiversity conservation and public health, as well as the global benefits of open access to DSI databases. Our members believe that only through an informed debate will we be able to find a mechanism that enables research & innovation and fairly distributes DSI benefits.

The strategic direction and substantive elements of the outputs and activities of the Network are driven by the members, all acting in their individual expert capacity. Decisions affecting the Network’s status, mission, and priorities are made by consensus among the group. The Secretariat of the Network provides a supporting coordinating and logistical role carried out by staff from Emerging Ag.

Open Letter from DSI Network

The Network, in partnership with other major international scientific organizations, has published an Open Letter advocating for equitable benefit-sharing solutions for DSI that preserve open sharing and promote biodiversity conservation. As COP15 negotiations resume, this is a key moment that may shape how DSI can be used and accessed for decades to come, and for researchers around the world. We invite other scientific organizations, national academies and individual researchers to join their voice to ours by co-signing the Open Letter.

A win-win multilateral option for DSI

Members of the Network recently published a peer-reviewed paper at the journal Nature Communications outlining a new policy proposal that could ensure fair benefit-sharing and protect open access to DSI, while promoting biodiversity conservation.