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.

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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

The CBD DSI matrix:

How do the DSI policy options measure up?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s DSI Informal Advisory Group prepared a performance matrix to enable Parties and stakeholders to analyze the proposed DSI policy options. 

A group of DSI Scientific Network members assessed and discussed the matrix and recommends to avoid red areas, to proceed with deliberative caution in yellow areas, and pursue opportunities for win-win compromise in the green areas.


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.