First thematic help desk to support mobilization of biodiversity data related to disease vectors

Efforts to boost mobilization of data on wild host, vector and reservoir species connected to human health

Eastern saltmarsh mosquito (Aedes sollicitans), observed in Canada. Photo 2021 David McCorquodale via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Two node managers from the GBIF network will assist a pilot effort targeting mobilization of species occurrence data for wild species relevant to research on human disease. Carole Sinou of Canadensys and Dmitri Brosens of the Belgian Biodiversity Platform will provide help desk services to support a joint call for data papers describing datasets on vectors of human disease issued by TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, GigaScience Press and GBIF.

The targeted campaign is first in a planned series of initiatives called out in the 2022 GBIF Work Programme aimed at expanding data streams to improve the evidence base needed support for strategically and scientifically important biodiversity-related research areas. The current initiative responds to the growing number of studies that rely on GBIF for open data on wild biodiversity while investigating and seeking to understanding vector-borne diseases that affect human communities. The activities of the "Disease Vector Data help desk", which will include seeking to guide publication of several relevant datasets previously identified by the GBIF community, will supplement the work of the GBIF Secretariat and be conducted in close coordination with other GBIF nodes.

"We're excited to set up with GBIF's first thematic help desk with support from our nodes community and the aim of accelerating progress on mobilizing data relevant to human health and disease. Our expert task group has provided excellent guidance in setting priorities for a thematic area of research that, despite its importance, has largely been left to chance until now," said Dmitry Schigel, scientific officer at the GBIF Secretariat. "We're eager to chart the results and gauge our success in expanding data that complements research by the epidemiological and veterinary sectors and in providing a model for similar campaigns."

Dr Sinou, a botanist and biodiversity informatics specialist based at the Université de Montréal Biodiversity Centre, earned her selection through an open call for proposals. In addition to volunteering as a mentor, trainer and translator, Carole serves as both the Canadensys node manager and the deputy regional representative from North America on the Nodes Steering Group. Having recently led the development of the Legume Data Portal, Carole has considerable experience managing, cleaning and publishing various kinds of biodiversity data as well as navigating many programming and server issues.

Mr Brosens is an equally familiar member in the GBIF community, having worked for the Belgian Biodiversity Platform from the Flemish Research Institute for Nature and Forest—most recently as Belgian GBIF node manager—since 2009. In his previous role as biodiversity research data liaison officer, and now, with his time on the help desk coming as an additional in-kind contribution from Belgium, Dimitri has pursued a keen interest in engaging and supporting the communities of practice that standardize and publish interoperable biodiversity data. As the data-publishing liaison of the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, he looks forward taking his experience beyond the borders of Belgium.

The efforts of Dr Sinou and Mr Brosens complement similar initiatives recently launched to provide regional support in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.