CETAF Stable Identifiers
To make the biodiversity data within CETAF’s natural history collections retrievable, connected and interoperable, ‘stable identifiers’ must be determined. The formation of a joint system of identifiers for specimens held by CETAF collections is one of the key targets defined by CETAF’s strategic development plan for 2015-2025. Stable identifiers are globally unique, consistent and reliable identifiers for specimens, used online to redirect users and systems to images, websites and metadata about the physical objects and to integrate them with the semantic web.
The CETAF Information Science and Technology Committee has taken already a significant step to fulfil this target by agreeing on a joint Linked Open Data (LOD) compliant identifier system that provides mechanisms for consistently referencing individual specimens and redirects to human-readable webpages and machine-readable metadata records.
Stable Identifiers Implementers Group
To date, 14 CETAF institutions have joined the initiative and provide LOD-compliant identifiers for individual specimens. For each of them, the following lists provide an example identifier, a link to a catalogue for searching specimens and their identifiers as well as an indication of whether a redirect to machine-readable metadata has already been implemented.
Natural Science Collections and Access and Benefit Sharing
The genetic resources contained within animals, plants and microorganisms are a key element of the work of CETAF members. We preserve and study this material to understand the nature, structure or development of cells, proteins, membranes and structures of the world's species.
It is important to know the origin of these genetic resources: not only for research and collection management purposes, but also because the countries that provide genetic resources have sovereignty over the material found within their borders. If genetic resources are used, for example in developing new innovations, benefits arising should be shared in a fair and equitable manner between providers and users.
Due to the not-for-profit nature of the work of CETAF members, benefits arising from their research are mostly non-monetary. For us, benefit-sharing typically involves elements such as scientific training, education, capacity building, technology transfer, collaboration on scientific work programmes and the mutual sharing of research results and publications.
Many countries have laws setting out conditions under which access to genetic resources is granted. The international legal framework for the benefit sharing as well as the access to genetic resources is provided by the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which entered into force in 2014.
The Nagoya Protocol creates incentives to use genetic resources sustainably and therefore conserve biodiversity. The European Union is a party to the Nagoya Protocol, and the provisions of the EU Regulation on Access and Benefit-Sharing and its Implementing Regulation apply to all Member States. All CETAF members’ home countries – EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland - are also party to the Nagoya Protocol.
CETAF supports the aims of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol, the CBD’s Global Taxonomy Initiative and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
Access and Benefit-Sharing for Natural History Collections
To ensure our work complies with the Nagoya protocol, we have to properly document the samples stored in our collections. Linking permits, such as research or collecting permits with specimens is part of routine management of CETAF collections. This applies to material acquired by all means, such as collecting, donations, bequests and purchases. Access and benefit-sharing (ABS) requirements add a new dimension, as we now need to record how we utilise collection material and consider how it can be used under agreed permits, through loaning, sequencing and publication of results, for example. Documentation is of particular importance for material collected after October 2014 when the Nagoya Protocol came into force, since the collection-holding institution or researchers using the collections may be called on to make a declaration to their national checkpoint including reference to relevant ABS information.
To support this collective effort, CETAF members are currently implementing systems to record and link a range of information to individual specimens and samples:
- the terms and conditions under which the specimen was accessed;
- any uses that might be prohibited by the conditions or trigger benefit sharing;
- any benefits shared; and
- supply to third parties, such as loans.
The EU ABS regulation is of utmost importance to natural history collections and the associated research carried out at CETAF institutions, since it affects the way both are organised.
CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practices
CETAF members have been working on questions related to access and benefit-sharing for over 20 years, well before the Nagoya Protocol and EU Regulation on Access and Benefit-Sharing were established. As a result of this work, CETAF Members developed and adopted a Code of Conduct for ABS. The principles and practices stated in the Code of Conduct are also designed to fully support CETAF members’ operations as taxonomic collection-holding and non-commercial biological research institutions in complying with ABS legal and ethical requirements.
All member institutions have agreed to implement the CETAF Code of Conduct & Best Practices which was developed by CETAF’s Legislations and Regulations Liaison Group. That means for example that in order to obtain prior informed consent, CETAF members will provide a full explanation of the purposes for which biological material will be used and how genetic resources may be utilised. This means members subsequently take any steps reasonably possible to ensure that the biological material was acquired in accordance with the applicable law.
In addition to the best practices, the downloadable annexes include a use statement, a glossary, a list of monetary and non-monetary benefits, practical advice for ABS management in museums, herbaria, and botanic gardens, templates for different material transfer agreements, and a data use statement.
Recognition of the CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practices
On 10 May 2019 with a decision from the European Commission, the CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practices were officially recognised as the first best practice on ABS.
The Code of Conduct and Best Practices provides the overall framework to guide practitioners and researchers within the CETAF community in complying with ABS requirements in their daily work. “Best practices" in the sense of the ABS Regulation (Art. 8) are procedures, tools or mechanisms, developed and overseen by associations of users or other interested parties, which – when effectively implemented – help users of genetic resources to comply with the obligations of the EU ABS Regulation.
In 2019, the document was recognised by the European Commission. It was included in a dedicated register of best practices as the first and so far only entry.
The document serves as a reference to any researcher wishing to follow the same principles, in compliance with legislation. One example is the Global Genome Biodiversity Network that has since aligned its practices to the CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practices.
ABS Consultation Forum
In 2015, CETAF, via the General Secretariat and the CETAF Legislations and Regulations Liaison Group joined the European Commission ABS Consultation Forum. The Forum provides advice and expertise to the European Commission and its Directorate-General for Environment on the implementation of ABS legislation. It also facilitates coordination with Member States and a range of stakeholders on this issue. Representatives attended the first meeting of the forum on 21 January 2016, and the second meeting on 6 March 2017.
As a member of the ABS Consultation Forum, CETAF is in a prime position to use our collective voice to speak out about the importance of collections and the research carried out on them, raising awareness among other stakeholders and the Member States about our role in broadening scientific knowledge of biodiversity and natural resources. Members of the CETAF community are involved in the development of drafts for the forthcoming guidance documents on research and collections.
Documents of reference
CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practice on ABS + 'Material Transfer Agreements (2015)
CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practice for Access and Benefit Sharing (all annexes included)
Guidance document on the scope of the EU ABS Regulation
CETAF Legislation and Regulations Liaison Group (CETAF workshop, London, April 2018)
ABS Challenges and Opportunities (presentation by Dirk Neumann, 2017)
Introduction to the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol
The European ABS Legislation (CETAF workshop, Berlin, June 2016)
CETAF Code of Conduct & Best Practice
Practical Implementation in a nutshell (CETAF workshop, Legislation & Regulations group)
ABS and the Nagoya Protocol
Communication material & press
CETAF stable identifiers for specimens (poster)
CETAF Code of conduct & Best practice on ABS (A4 leaflet)
EU recognition of the CETAF CoC 23 May 2019 (press release)
European Commission ABS Consultation Forum
CETAF Stable Identifier Initiative Wiki