The amount of data that is being generated across the life sciences has grown exponentially in recent years. In 2015 it was estimated that the amount of genomic data produced will double every seven months (Stephens et al. 2017).
To be able to effectively and efficiently manage and use all this data, and translate it into impactful research that will help meet current global challenge is a huge task and not one that can be tackled by a single institution or even country. Instead it requires cooperation across countries and organisational and discipline boundaries.
ELIXIR was therefore established as an intergovernmental organisation, which brings together life science resources from across Europe (including databases, software tools, training materials, cloud storage and supercomputers) to:
- Manage the huge increase in life science data
- Deal with the increasing complexity of data
- Make it easier to find the right tools and training
- Build a more robust bioinformatics infrastructure
- Drive innovation and industry usage
ELIXIR was founded in 2014 and currently includes 22 members and over 180 research organisations who work together via a ‘Hub and Nodes’ model.
The ELIXIR hub is like a headquarters and coordinates the work across ELIXIR. The Hub is based at the Wellcome Genome Campus, near Cambridge UK. ELIXIR is an intergovernmental organisation, not an EU body.
Each member state of ELIXIR establishes a ‘Node’ which is a network of organisations that work within ELIXIR. ELIXIR Nodes run the resources and services that are a key part of ELIXIR. Each Node has a lead organisation that coordinates the local ELIXIR activities and oversees the work of that Node. For example, for the UK node which is currently made up of 15 partner organisations, Earlham Institute is the lead institution.
The UK node (ELIXIR UK) is a distributed effort across the UK partners and builds upon the breadth and depth of the consortium members to provide training and resources that support the bioinformatics and broader research community to have impact and relevance at the national, European and international level.
The UK Head of Node is Prof. Carole Goble (University of Manchester). The UK Node coordination office is located at Earlham Institute and funded by the BBSRC, MRC and NERC. This funding supports the coordination activities and does not provide funding for the UK Node’s resources and services. Services and resources are expected to raise their own funding through a diversity of funding schemes.
For clarity, EBI (European Bioinformatics Institute; EMBL-EBI) is the EMBL Node of ELIXIR and is not part of the UK Node. The UK Node represents non-EBI UK-based institutions, resources and activities.