Terms of reference

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The Global Genome Biodiversity Network Draft Terms of Reference

Background

The Global Genome Biodiversity Network (hereafter GGBN) is an international network of institutions that share an interest in long-term preservation of genomic samples representing the diversity of non-human life on Earth.

GGBN provides Members with the primary benefit of making genomic samples discoverable for research through a networked community of biodiversity repositories. In doing so, GGBN provides trusted and transparent access to genomic samples for all, through an access and benefit sharing framework.

GGBN also provides a platform for collaborating biological repositories to:

• Ensure consistent quality standards for genomic samples; • Improve best practices for preservation and use of such collections; and • Harmonize the exchange and use of material in accordance with national and international legislation and conventions.

The aim of this document is to describe establishment of a formal governance structure for GGBN. This document serves as a guide for Members as GGBN makes the transition from a concept created in 2011 to a formalized Member-driven organization. This transition is guided by GGBN’s Steering Committee (hereafter Interim Executive Committee), which was established in January 2012.

Principal changes to GGBN’s organizational structure are embodied within this text and include the following:

• Succession of the Interim Executive Committee by the Executive Committee; • Establishment of a General Assembly; • Establishment of procedures for membership of the General Assembly, Executive Committee, and Task Forces; • Establishment of a contribution-based business model.

Definitions

Biodiversity biobank: A subset of biodiversity repositories that store DNA, RNA or tissue samples of biodiversity.

Biodiversity repository: A publicly accessible, curated collection of biological material (in general excluding contemporary human material). Examples include, but are not restricted to, natural history museums, herbaria, botanical gardens, biodiversity biobanks, seed banks, aquaria, and zoos.

Contributions: Monetary or in-kind contributions by Members for GGBN benefits as outlined in Sections IV.D and IX.

Contributors: Members making a monetary or in-kind contribution to the GGBN in order to receive benefits outlined in Sections IV.D and IX.

Genomic Sample: Any biological material preserved to keep all or part of its molecular properties (in general excluding human material). Examples include DNA, RNA and whole tissues.

Members: Organizations or institutions that have, by mutual agreement with the Executive Committee, associated with GGBN as an Observer, Associate, or Core Member, as outlined in the Section IV.

Mission and Activities of the Organization

GGBN’s mission is to promote access to information about, and legal exchange of, the genomic samples maintained by its Member Organizations, as defined under GGBN Membership and Member Responsibilities. GGBN will pursue this mission by: ● Contributing information on its respective collections to an online institutional registry of biodiversity repositories; ● Developing and maintaining the GGBN Data Portal through which standardized data about genomic samples can be shared; ● Using the information shared through the GGBN Data Portal to highlight taxonomic and geographic strengths and weaknesses in individual Member collections and across the network; ● Encouraging biodiversity repositories to contribute data to the GGBN Data Portal and so become Core Members of GGBN; ● Recruiting new GGBN Members, thereby expanding geographic and taxonomic coverage of the network; ● Gathering information on best practices for collection and data management that will:

       a. be of general interest to biodiversity repositories,
       b. support improved access to collections for research, 
       c. serve as resources for professional training and education, and
       d. contribute to the improvement of public awareness and appreciation of genomic biodiversity;

● Documenting and acknowledge individual researcher and institutional contributions through the construction of a globally distributed database of genomic samples; ● Developing ethical standards for Member compliance regarding international access to biological samples, their subsequent use, and the sharing of the resulting research and/or benefits.

To achieve this mission, one of GGBN’s principal activities will be the management of a globally distributed database of genomic samples linked to voucher specimens (herein referred to as the Data Portal). This networked database will act as a guiding resource for research across the Tree of Life. GGBN’s Data Portal will be made available online under a Creative Commons license that prohibits its redistribution as a commercial product. Members can withhold selected data for any reason. Data displayed through the portal will only be updated or edited by the Member providing the data. All data made available through the GGBN Data Portal will be the property of, and properly attributed to, the contributing Member. GGBN’s activities will be guided by the following convention and protocol: ● Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), http://www.cbd.int/convention/text/, ● Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (ABS), http://www.cbd.int/abs/doc/protocol/nagoya-protocol-en.pdf.

GGBN’s activities will contribute to the goals of the Global Taxonomy Initiative of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Member Roles and Responsibilities

Membership in GGBN is open to biodiversity biobanks and organizations that have an interest in biodiversity biobanks. Institutions, government agencies, and other scientific organizations that own and manage collections of non-human genomic samples, along with other organizations involved in genomic biodiversity may apply to the Executive Committee to become new Members or can be nominated by GGBN Members at any time. Membership in GGBN is by mutual agreement between the prospective Member and the Executive Committee. Prospective Members are expected to have interests in (1) genomic research and research infrastructure connected to non-human biodiversity, (2) interacting with other Members and the GGBN Secretariat, and (3) contributing to the achievement of GGBN’s goals in various ways. GGBN has three Membership categories for institutions and organizations: Observer members, Associate members, and Core members.

Observer Members

Institutional biodiversity biobanks and organizations that have an interest in biodiversity biobanks and biodiversity informatics and/or:

  • Collect and contribute material to Core and Associate members in compliance with the relevant national/international laws and regulations;
  • Support the goals of GGBN;
  • Provide technical expertise to GGBN; and
  • Participate in GGBN activities and Task Forces.

Associate Members

Institutional biodiversity biobanks that have initiated the process of becoming Core members and therefore:

  • Have made a commitment to long-term preservation of genomic collections and associated data, for the purpose of providing access for research;
  • Have an enterprise level data system that can provide data on a reliable basis;
  • Are represented in an institutional registry of biodiversity biobanks; and
  • Intend to prepare and contribute data to the GGBN Data Portal in compliance with the standards established by the relevant GGBN Task Force.

Core Members

Institutional biodiversity biobanks, that fulfill all the requirements of Associate membership and are also actively contributing data to the GGBN Data Portal in compliance with the standards established by the relevant GGBN Task Force.

Financial Responsibilities and Associated Benefits

Financial responsibilities and associated benefits for Core, Associate and Observer members are outlined in the table below. Financial contributions by members (i.e. Financial Contributors) may be made in kind or in cash, based on the institution’s biodiversity biobank specimens and collection staff size, as outlined in section VII. In kind contributions will be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee annually based on the needs of the Network’s annual operating budget.

Financial Responsibilities and Benefits
Core Associate Observer
Financial Contribution Required Optional Optional
Eligible to serve on General Assembly Yes Yes Yes
Eligible to vote in General Assembly elections Yes Yes for financial contributors Yes for financial contributors
Eligible to serve on Executive Committee Yes Yes for financial contributors Yes for financial contributors
Eligible for technical support for making tissue and DNA collections discoverable for research Yes Yes for financial contributors No
Eligibility for participation on Task Forces Yes Yes Yes
Eligible for reduced registration rates for GGBN Conferences Yes Yes for financial contributors Yes for financial contributors

General Assembly

The General Assembly represents the entire GGBN membership, including Core, Associate and Observer members and is the ultimate decision-making body for GGBN. A quorum consisting of at least half of the Financial Contributors is required for all decisions. Financial Contributors may send more than one representative to meetings of the General Assembly but Financial Contributors will have one vote only. A Financial Contributor may cast its vote in absentia or may delegate its vote to another Financial Contributor that will be present at a General Assembly meeting. In absentia votes and a delegation of voting rights must be provided to the Secretariat one week prior to the beginning of a General Assembly meeting. Members that are not Financial Contributors will not vote.

Membership

The General Assembly is made up of individuals representing GGBN member organizations.

Authority and Duties

The General Assembly has the authority:

The General Assembly is to make decisions by consensus whenever possible or by simple majority, unless specified otherwise. The General Assembly has the authority to:

a. Modify the Governance Model and GGBN Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (two-thirds majority required); b. Alter the rates of the annual monetary Contributions by Members (two-thirds majority required); c. Elect Members of the Executive Committee; d. Nominate members of standing Task Forces; e. Nominate and/or renew the terms of the Secretariat and Technical Management hosts; f. Identify strategic activities and partners; g. Identify new Task Forces and propose issues, ideas, and new Task Forces for consideration by the Executive Committee; h. Approve GGBN’s strategies as proposed by the Executive Committee to include policies, budgets, and work plans; i. Consider any matters pertaining to GGBN or its operations submitted to it by the Executive Committee Chair, the Secretariat Host, the Technical Management Host, or by any Member.


General Assembly Meetings

Meetings will coincide with annual or biennial GGBN Conferences. An annual vote to approve the operating budget, work program, and other essential decisions recommended by the Executive Committee will take place at meetings or by electronic ballot if no meetings are scheduled to take place within the calendar year. Conferences are preferably held each time in a different geographical location hosted by a Financial Contributor.

Leadership

The General Assembly will be chaired either by the Executive Committee Chair or a meeting chair specifically elected at the meeting.

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is a working committee responsible for overseeing the operations of the Secretariat and Technical Management Office in implementing the work program and budget.

Membership

A maximum of 11 members:

  • Chair;
  • Vice Chair; and
  • Up to nine members representing the General Assembly or Standing Task Force Chairs.

The Interim Executive Committee established during the transition phase will present a slate of candidate Members for approval by the General Assembly. Henceforth membership is by election by the General Assembly. Executive Committee membership shall be in accordance with the following requirements:

a. The Executive Committee shall consist of a maximum of 11 members, which shall include the Chair, Vice Chair, and up to nine Members representing the General Assembly or Standing Task Force Chairs. b. The Program and Technical Managers shall serve in a non-voting ex-officio capacity. The Program Manager shall act as secretary to the Executive Committee. c. Executive Committee members may include those institutions or organizations that have signed the GGBN MOU and are making a monetary or in-kind contribution to GGBN. d. No more than two non-collection holding organizations can hold a seat on the Executive Committee at any one time. e. The Executive Committee can invite observers with specific expertise or knowledge to join discussions at any time. f. Membership is through election by the General Assembly. New members are nominated by a Nomination Committee of GGBN Members appointed by the Executive Committee. g. The Nomination Committee will seek to nominate candidates that represent a balance among geographic regions and between Core, Associate, and Observer Members. Nominees will preferentially reflect the distribution of Contributors among size categories and disciplines. h. The Chair is nominated by the Executive Committee and confirmed by the Members of the General Assembly.

Meetings

The Executive Committee shall meet in person at least one time per calendar year and at other times as deemed necessary by the Executive Committee. In person Executive Committee meetings shall coincide with annual or biennial GGBN Conferences.

Task Forces

Task Forces were established to address: 1) Data Standards and Data Access for Genomic Samples, 2) Policies and Practices Related to Management and Stewardship of Genomic Samples and 3) Marketing and Outreach. New Task Forces may be proposed and identified by the General Assembly.

Membership

Task Forces will be composed of nominated GGBN member representatives with capabilities and resources to offer GGBN, plus the Task Force Chair. The GGBN Program Manager serves in an ex-officio capacity on each of the Task Forces. Members may include those institutions or organizations that have signed the GGBN MOC and strategic partners. Membership is through nomination by the GGBN General Assembly and serves a three-year term that may be renewed indefinitely. Chairs are nominated by the members of the General Assembly and confirmed by the Executive Committee. Chairs serve a three-year term that may be renewed by the General Assembly.

Authority and Duties

Task Forces shall be responsible for achieving goals outlined by the Executive Committee and approved by the General Assembly.

Meetings

Task Forces shall meet in person and/or by teleconference as needed in order to accomplish the goals of GGBN. In person meetings will coincide with annual or biennial GGBN Conferences.

Leadership

Each Task Force will be led by a Task Force Chair.  

Secretariat and Technical Management Offices

GGBN’s Executive Committee will oversee the Secretariat and Technical Management Offices.

Secretariat Office

Subject to available funding provided by the GGBN, the Secretariat Office performs day-to-day operational management for GGBN, coordinates Member activities, and provides administrative support and communication services for the General Assembly, Executive Committee, Task Force chairs, Technical Management Office, and GGBN Members.

Technical Management Office

Subject to available funding provided by the GGBN, the Technical Management Office performs day-to-day operational management of the GGBN Data Portal, GGBN Registry, and GGBN Document Library, coordinates further improvements and provides technical support for GGBN Core and Associate Members.

Composition

The Secretariat Office and Technical Management Office will consist of a Program Manager and Technical Manager, respectively, and any additional staff members whose positions will be approved by the General Assembly. Members of the Secretariat and Technical Management Offices will be employed by the NMNH and the BGBM, respectively, on term appointments subject to the availability of monetary or in-kind support from the GGBN. The Program and Technical Managers will report formally to their respective employers with input from the Chair of the Executive Committee.

Term

The Secretariat and Technical Management Offices are run by volunteer institutions for three-year terms that may be renewed by the General Assembly. A new Secretariat and Technical Management Office host may be nominated by the General Assembly every three years.  

Contributions by Members

Any GGBN Member can make a contribution to the network. These contributions will be in-kind or monetary based on the Member’s biodiversity biobank specimen and collection staff size as outlined in the table below. In-kind contributions will be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee annually based on the needs of the GGBN’s annual operating budget.


Expected Annual Financial Contribution to GGBN by Biodiversity Biobank Specimens and Collection Staff Size
Category Specimens size Collection staff size Expected Contribution (US dollars/year)
Large-A >200K >10 10,000
Medium-Large-B 100-200K 5-10 5,000
Medium-C 50-99K 3-4 2,500
Medium-Small-D 20-49K 1-2 1,200
Small-E <20K <1 250

Member institutions fall within one of the five categories listed above based on a simple matrix using the institution’s biodiversity biobank specimens size against the biodiversity biobank collection staff size, as outline below. Both specimen size and collection staff size estimates are based on information made available to the Network from GGBN member institutions.

Specimens Size
<20K 20-49K 50-99K 100-200K >200K
Staff Size <1 $250 $250 $1200 $2500 $2500
1 to 2 $250 $1200 $2500 $2500 $2500
3 to 4 $1200 $2500 $2500 $2500 $5000
5 to 10 $2500 $1200 $2500 $5000 $10000
>10 $2500 $2500 $5000 $10000 $10000

Activation and Deactivation of GGBN

The implementation phase takes place as a transition period after the activation of the GGBN Terms of Reference. The activation and deactivation of the GGBN Terms of Reference will be enacted in accordance with the following:

Activation

This document was activated on April 7th 2016 when the 11th Contributor organization submitted a letter of intent to make an annual monetary contribution to GGBN and signed the original 2013 GGBN MOC.

Implementation phase

The period of time between the activation of the GGBN Terms of Reference and the establishment of the General Assembly.

Deactivation

This document may be deactivated with a two-thirds majority vote in the General Assembly.