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Alliance to Promote Sharing of Big Data on Biodiversity, Health
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China has become a global center for biological and life sciences studies, and its research data can play a big role in promoting biodiversity and sustainability, as well as tackling global health issues, according to scientists.

On Oct 14, China launched the Global Biodiversity and Health Big Data Alliance, a collaboration between institutes and universities in Pakistan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Russia that aims to facilitate the sharing and application of big data.

The program operates under the framework of the International Union of Biological Sciences, a nonprofit founded in 1919 that covers all disciplines of biological and life sciences. It has more than 110 institutional members worldwide.

"Global science has entered a historic era in which big data and associated digital technologies are central to research on an array of human and environmental challenges," said Bao Yiming, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Beijing Institute of Genomics.

He said limited access to data has restricted developing countries' ability to participate in global biological and life sciences research projects.

The alliance's goal is to promote global integration and public access to biological and life sciences data among member countries, Bao said, adding that the data cover diseases and pathogens, genetic information from living organisms, economic crops and other key biological resources.

Sharing and integrating the data will advance scientific research and create new, sustainable solutions to complex global challenges, such as food security, aging populations and environmental degradation, he said.
Vsevolod Makeev, a researcher from the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics in Russia, said China has seen unprecedented progress in science and become a global center for biological research.

The alliance's data-sharing mechanisms will provide more valuable information to serve the global scientific communities and facilitate joint efforts to tackle common challenges, he said.

One of the key scientific missions for this century is to find ways to increase agricultural productivity while fulfilling the public's food and health demands and preserving the world's biodiversity, Makeev said.

Suchinda Malaivijitnond, director of Thailand's National Primate Research Center, said her nation's tropical forests support around 12,000 species of vascular plants, 15,000 animal species and 10,000 species of microorganisms.

Scientists estimate that more than 100,000 species of living organisms await discovery in Thailand's rain forests, she said. The alliance "will be a major move in the discovery and development of useful biological resources, and play a part in expanding our knowledge to improve the quality of life and the world", she added.

Ilene Mizrachi, a researcher from the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States, said China is a large generator of life sciences data and can play a big role in promoting the sharing and usage of such data around the world.

Both the US and European countries have data centers on biology and life sciences, and talks on collaboration between the alliance and Western countries are taking shape, she said.

"Biological health data are international, given how people, food and organisms can travel around the world," she said. It is beneficial to have a platform that can share these data and allow them to be used more effectively in tackling common issues, she added. (China Daily)