It is known that glycans play crucial roles in almost all known biological processes, and they are a target for biotherapeutics as well as for biofuels and biomaterials. Therefore, the information about these complex carbohydrates are important to organize carefully and comprehensively integrate with other molecular data.
Since the development of CarbBank twenty years ago, a plethora of glycan-related databases have been developed, each with their unique set of metadata regarding glycan structure, localization and function. The development of the glycan structure repository GlyTouCan greatly aided in organizing this data to allow glycan information to be shared more easily among researchers and databases. Subsequently, the year 2018 in particular marked the announcement of three major glycan-related database integration projects: Glycomics at ExPASy funded by the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics, GlyGen funded by the US National Institutes of Health, and GlyCosmos funded by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. In order to ensure that these projects do not duplicate efforts, the GlySpace Alliance consisting of these three groups was established in August, 2018.
The overarching objective of the GlySpace Alliance is to provide the scientific community with trustable information regarding the structures of biologically relevant glycans, the glycoconjugates within which they are found, their biosynthesis, and their roles in biological processes. The members of the GlySpace Alliance are committed to achieving this objective by freely sharing information in the glycobiology domain, which will facilitate accomplishment of the following specific goals:
- promote the use of standards for representing and exchanging glycobiology information;
- develop protocols for establishing and representing the provenance of glycobiology data and acknowledgement of the individuals and groups that collect, curate, map and integrate this data;
- establish metrics regarding the reliability and accuracy of the data based on existing metrics for quality control (e.g., evidence ontology);
- reach consensus for data filtering and/or annotation when disparities are found among the data;
- provide globally distributed data storage redundancy to enhance data accessibility and ensure its longevity.
Ultimately, the purpose of the GlySpace Alliance is to work collaboratively and synergistically to avoid duplication of effort, while at the same time individually developing unique and useful resources that benefit the community as a whole. In order to do so, each member database project must be assured to be stable and accessible. Unhindered communication about data access and available resources is essential to assess the needs of the community and to most efficiently respond to these needs. The outcomes of the Alliance will benefit each member by ensuring that the data will be sustained across the Alliance.
In order to achieve the above, membership in the Alliance requires that members be Principal Investigators of glycan-related multi-omics data integration projects with established funding for database development, maintenance and public dissemination. Moreover, each member must
- provide data of value to the Alliance,
- provide feedback regarding their data usage (e.g, access logs, etc.) to assess the needs of users, and
- attend Alliance meetings either in-person or via conference calls.
All data provided by members must be under an open-data license, cc-by 4.0 or more permissive, and all data must have unhindered access (i.e., no requirement for user registration, etc.). Any software provided should be at least GNU General Public License v3. Finally, key data standards must be followed: for example use of UniProtKB or RefSeq for protein sequence and GlyTouCan, PubChem or ChEBI for glycans. Lastly, the effectiveness of the Alliance and its members will be reviewed annually; membership will be revoked if any member is no longer able to satisfy all these criteria.
February 22, 2019
In alphabetical order, these are the members of the GlySpace Alliance as of February, 2019.