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Objective: To learn about the global diversity of pathogen and vector populations through data-sharing networks.

The starting point for genomic surveillance is for researchers around the world to work together to identify common forms of variation in the global pathogen and vector populations. This requires the establishment of large and diverse, multi-institutional, multi-national scientific networks.

Building and maintaining these partnerships poses numerous institutional, operational, and ethical challenges. This is especially true when bringing together collaborators from both developed and developing countries. Dedicated capacity building is needed to enable researchers in resource-limited settings to participate in and to develop leadership in these networks.

A key challenge is negotiating the roles and responsibilities of the various partners within a given network. Collaborators need to engage in deep discussions to determine how best to coordinate their work and to ensure that governance structures are developed in a way that is respectful of the local contexts where they’re working. Equally important is agreeing to appropriate network policies, for example, data-sharing within the network and external data release. These are all human processes that require substantial dialogue, and considerable effort needs to be invested in establishing relationships and building trust.

Our work in this arena has been greatly influenced by our close relationship with the Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network (MalariaGEN) and the Ethox Centre at the University of Oxford. Because of the complexity of the problem, our initial efforts have focused primarily on one major disease, malaria, as a proof-of-principle for global data-sharing communities. We’re now using this work as a model for the genomic epidemiology of other infectious diseases endemic in developing countries.

The CGGH has worked with a number of large-scale data-sharing initiatives including the MalariaGEN Consortial Projects on human immune responses to malaria, MalariaGEN P. falciparum Community Project, the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), and the Plasmodium Diversity Network Africa (PDNA).