Saturday, December 21, 2013

1st International e-Conference on Germplasm Data Interoperability: Overview

Germplasm_e-Conf_web

The 1st International e-Conference on Germplasm Data Interoperability is now over. It consisted of four (4) sessions which took place between 6 and 20 of December 2013 and was co-organized by Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsAgro-Know Technologies and supported by the agINFRA EU project.  The aim of the e-Conference was to bring together stakeholders in the area of plant germplasm and traits. The participants were encouraged to discuss the current status of the interoperability between the different data sources and resources, such as the metadata schemas and classification systems used. In this direction, the e-Conference aimed to focus on the Linked Data approach to be followed in order to enable the linking of data from heterogeneous data sources and in various data formats.

Indeed, the e-Conference managed to bring together various stakeholders including:

The e-Conference had the following structure:
  1. Session 1 (6/12/2013, Synchronous): The vision of Linked Germplasm Data (VideoGoogle Event page)
  2. Session 2 (11/12/2013, Synchronous): Data providers' perspective on current status & use of data and metadata for germplasm (VideoGoogle event page)
  3. Session 3 (19/12/2013, Asynchronous): Set up an infrastructure for germplasm data (Google event page)
  4. Session 4 (20/12/2013, Synchronous): Standard and metatadata for bringing germplasm data to breeding/in situ/on farm data (VideoGoogle event page)

All presentations are available at the website of the e-Conference. The AK team was actively involved in the organization of the event (both Giannis and me were in the Organizing Committee, which had a lot of work to do: from creating the program for the four sessions to finding the most appropriate tool/platform for the deployment of the e-Conference, let alone numerous emails/invitations/testing etc.!) as well as the actual implementation (I made three presentations in the first three sessions/Giannis also made one, and the introductions in Sessions 1 & 2!). The participation of AK was focused on the aims, objectives and outcomes of the agINFRA Germplasm Working Group, which has been working towards the harmonization of the germplasm standards as well as the development of a linked germplasm data approach.


The e-Conference was implemented using Google Hangouts, which allowed the presenters to share screens/slides and discuss while the audience could show a live stream of the presentations and comment in the page of the video or the event. We had some technical issues during the sessions (e.g. screen sharing not always working, full-screen sharing of presentations not working etc.) but in the end it was the content that mattered.

The comments received led some really interesting discussions and in fact there have been some of them which are going to drive things in the next months and move some steps forward towards the linking of the existing germplasm data sources and the work towards the adoption of common standards in all cases (where possible).

Overall, it was a really interesting and fruitful experience, which I hope that will enable the collaboration between the various stakeholders who actually participated in the meeting and will provide a "vehicle" for repeating the e-Conference during 2014, probably in a less formal way, enabling the frequent meeting of the stakeholders (e.g. in the form of e-seminars or workshops). As I mentioned during the e-Conference, I felt really privileged to have the opportunity to sit (at least virtually) next to such important people, who have been actively involved in the biodiversity and germplasm context during the last years and I feel that I have a lot to learn from them.