Emma J. Griffiths, Ruth E. Timme, Andrew J. Page, Nabil-Fareed Alikhan, Dan Fornika, Finlay Maguire, Catarina Inês Mendes, Simon H. Tausch, Allison Black, Thomas R. Connor, Gregory H. Tyson, David M. Aanensen, Brian Alcock, Josefina Campos, Alan Christoffels, Anders Gonçalves da Silva, Emma Hodcroft, William W.L. Hsiao, Lee S. Katz, Samuel M. Nicholls, Paul E. Oluniyi, Idowu B. Olawoye, Amogelang R. Raphenya, Ana Tereza R. Vasconcelos, Adam A. Witney, & Duncan R. MacCannell
The Public Health Alliance for Genomic Epidemiology (PHA4GE) (https://pha4ge.org) is a global coalition that is actively working to establish consensus standards, document and share best practices, improve the availability of critical bioinformatic tools and resources, and advocate for greater openness, interoperability, accessibility and reproducibility in public health microbial bioinformatics. In the face of the current pandemic, PHA4GE has identified a clear and present need for a fit-for-purpose, open source SARS-CoV-2 contextual data standard. As such, we have developed an extension to the INSDC pathogen package, providing a SARS-CoV-2 contextual data specification based on harmonisable, publicly available, community standards. The specification is implementable via a collection template, as well as an array of protocols and tools to support the harmonisation and submission of sequence data and contextual information to public repositories. Well-structured, rich contextual data adds value, promotes reuse, and enables aggregation and integration of disparate data sets. Adoption of the proposed standard and practices will better enable interoperability between datasets and systems, improve the consistency and utility of generated data, and ultimately facilitate novel insights and discoveries in SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.