Why has the GISAID Initiative been created?

Prior to the birth of the GISAID Initiative, many scientists hesitated to share influenza data through traditional public-domain data archives, in part due to their legitimate concern about being scooped, a term frequently used when peers using data, are able to publish scholarly articles more quickly than they themselves are able to. In some cases, their scientific contributions would also fail to be properly acknowledged, or recognized.

Additionally, some governments were concerned, about the loss of ownership over any intellectual property rights potentially residing in such data, and – particularly for low- and middle-income countries – will wish to ensure that they can secure access to new vaccines or medicines developed on the basis of that cooperation.

The GISAID Initiative took into account these concerns and launched in 2008 the open access EpiFlu™ database, as an alternative to traditional public-domain archives such as GenBank, where access to data takes place anonymously and submitters’ rights are not protected.

See: Pearson H. Competition in biology: It's a scoop! Nature 2003; DOI: 10.1038/news031124-9

Why is there a requirement to register in order to access the EpiFlu™ database?

All users of the EpiFlu™ database are issued personal access credentials after having provided their identity and agreed to terms of use that govern the GISAID sharing mechanism.  This requirement is not only essential to help uphold the integrity of the GISAID user community, but necessary to enforce the GISAID sharing mechanism that assures reciprocity of the data for future generations

What conditions do registered users agree to?

Registered users can upload data relating to sequences, clinical manifestations in humans, epidemiology, observations in poultry and other animals, etc. These data will be accessible to all other registered users, but not to others unless they have agreed to the same terms of use. This maintains confidentiality of the data.

The data can be used to publish results if the publication acknowledges the originating laboratory and the authors agree to collaborate with the data provider in further analysis and research. The data can also be used to develop vaccines and other interventions. For more information go to Registration.

What is happening to the intellectual property i.e. ownership of the data?

Ownership to data remain unchanged. While Data in GISAID are publicly accessible, Submitters do not forfeit their rights (IPR) to the Data they deposit in GISAID. All rights are explicitly preserved and may not be altered under the license provided through GISAID's Terms of Use

When will genetic sequences be accessible to the public?

Immediately. All genetic sequences and virus metadata uploaded and released to the EpiFlu™ database are openly accessible to the public without delay.

Does GISAID store restricted sequences in its database?

No. GISAID policies do not permit the storage of restricted sequences in the EpiFlu™ database to ensure rapid sharing of all influenza data with the public.

Can I publish using GISAID accession numbers?

Yes. The unique identifiers of influenza viruses and their genetic sequences deposited in GISAID (epi accession numbers) are accepted without limitation by peer-reviewed journals in the submission of manuscripts for publication. For more information see Publishing with GISAID References.

Do I need permission to use GISAID data when submitting an analysis for publication?

No. Registered users of GISAID may reference genetic sequence information when submitting a manuscript for publication, as long as the genetic data itself is not released. This is why GISAID also provides for unique identifiers, known as the epi accession numbers to refer to the underlying sequence information.

Does GISAID play a role in the WHO bi-annual influenza vaccine virus recommendations?

Yes. Since its launch in 2008, GISAID remains an essential resource for the WHO Collaborating Centers, Essential Regulatory Laboratories and National Influenza Centers for the timely and often urgent exchange of information within the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) integral to the selection of seasonal and pre-pandemic vaccine viruses and risk assessment of zoonotic infections.

Can vaccine reference strains be obtained in GISAID?

Yes. All human influenza vaccine reference strains selected by the WHO Collaborating Centers for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Control of Influenza are made available to the public through GISAID’s EpiFlu™ database. 

However, the knowledge, as to which influenza strain may have been targeted by a WHO CC’s as a potential candidate reference strain during the consultation process, remain privileged information to WHO CC members only, although the genetic data itself are fully accessible to the public at all times.

Does GISAID release genetic sequences to public-domain archives?

No. GISAID does not promote the release of data to databases where access to data is anonymous and the rights of the submitter are relinquished.  GISAID already provides the public with open access to data in a transparent way.

GISAID was specifically created as an alternative to public-domain archives (e.g. Genbank) as they do not provide reliable mechanisms to address the concerns of data depositors seeking a transparent exchange of data and the upholding of scientific etiquette.

GISAID does not offer a mechanism to release data to any other database.

Can I recover my password or username?

Yes. GISAID provides users with an automated process to recover password or username

In the event a user no longer has access to the email used in the original registration, users may contact GISAID directly for assistance. GISAID's registration team will assist bonafide users to continue using their original access credentials.