ELIXIR-UK 2020 Highlights

As 2020 draws to a close it is time to look back on all the achievements of ELIXIR-UK and its members, and the progress we made this year. It has been a strange time, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way many of us work, network, and collaborate. But all those involved in ELIXIR-UK have risen to the challenge and have not just adapted, they have made 2020 a fantastic year.

We have had several new appointments this year. In September Hannah Norman joined the Coordination Office as the Community Engagement Officer for ELIXIR-UK, and at the ELIXIR-UK All Hands meeting we announced that Helen Parkinson has joined our Science and Industry Advisory Board. This autumn ELIXIR-UK launched two new working groups in Data Management and Training, with Krzysztof Poterlowicz and Ralf Weber joining the Management Committee as training coordinators, and Robert Andrews joining as a data management representative.

ELIXIR-UK has made progress this year in the sphere of Health Data, with ELIXIR-UK’s Tim Beck leading the new ELIXIR Health Data Focus Group which was approved in May. Tim now has his sights set on creating an ELIXIR-UK Health Data network, starting with a workshop in June 2021. Congratulations also to Nicola Soranzo who has just been appointed as a co-lead of the ELIXIR Galaxy community.

2020 has also been a great year for ELIXIR-UK services. We have welcomed six new services: FAIRDOM:Seek, GWAS Central, HGNC, LIPID Maps, PomBase and PSIPRED, along with a roadmapped service, KnetMiner. These services all gave engaging presentations at the latest ELIXIR-UK All Hands meeting and we are delighted to have welcomed them.

Of course, at the centre of this year has been the COVID-19 pandemic. In March ELIXIR set up a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 research, and there is also an ELIXIR-UK webpage highlighting how our services have adapted to help the research effort. Many of our members have led the development of new COVID resources including the COVID WorkflowHub, a FAIRsharing collection of COVID resources, and a KnetMiner for COVID-19. On the EU COVID-19 data portal, there are four UK services listed.

ELIXIR-UK services without direct COVID-19 resources have also seen an increase in usage, as researchers moved out of the lab during the lockdown. Jalview saw a trebling of usage in April 2020 compared to the previous year.

On top of this, in 2020 our events went virtual as COVID-19 prevented travel. The first virtual ELIXIR All Hands was held in June and had over 500 registrations. The ELIXIR-UK node was very well represented, with members of the node running workshops and presenting, and Alice Minotto from the Earlham Institute winning one of the prizes for best poster.

Rob Davey from the Earlham Institute presents at ELIXIR All Hands (Photo from the ELIXIR twitter account)

At the end of September, the first Conference for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology was held virtually by the Earlham Institute, with a very strong presence from ELIXIR-UK. Four ELIXIR-UK members were session chairs. Susanna-Assunta Sansone gave a talk on FAIRplus and Tim Beck spoke about finding, harmonising, and using health data for research.

Head of Node Neil Hall who chaired the CBCB (photo from Earlham Institute twitter account)

The final event in the ELIXIR-UK calendar was the ELIXIR-UK All Hands meeting at the start of December. Once again this was a virtual event, and over 70 people registered to attend.

A big win this year for ELIXIR-UK was the funding from BBSRC, MRC and Wellcome for a feasibility study of BioFAIR, a data sustainability institute and digital object commons which will support life science data management in the UK. This was awarded in the summer and in September the consultancy Technopolis started their work to produce a feasibility report.

In 2021 ELIXIR-UK will continue to develop our communications and engagement strategy, along with our training and research data management expertise. Watch out for some new events including our Health Data workshop which will take place in June, and for the publication of the BioFAIR feasibility study report. We will also continue our involvement in the delivery of EU projects including ELIXIR-CONVERGE, EOSC-Life and FAIRplus.

A huge thank you to all of you who have been involved with ELIXIR-UK this year. We know that you have given your time and expertise and we are so grateful for all you do to make the ELIXIR-UK node a success. We hope you have a lovely holiday season and we look forward to working with you all in 2021!

Attendees at the ELIXIR-UK All Hands meeting
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