The BBMRI Connector is a component of the BBMRI-ERIC platform. It gets installed in the local biobank network (one instance per biobank) and has access to a Local data silo. When a query for samples arrives, the Connector searches for matching samples in the Local data silo, and if present, notifies the biobanker of the new query. The biobanker then decides whether to contact the requesting researcher and initiate a negotiation about the provision of samples and related data.

BBMRI-ERIC Common Services IT Platform

As many biobanks are not willing to list their detailed sample data in a system outside of their network, BBMRI-ERIC also aims at supporting decentralized search. For this search approach, the data is kept locally within the biobank network in a Local data silo (see the Figure), and all queries are executed locally by a Connector component.

The researcher can then enter a request using the central Sample Locator component. The Connector accesses the available queries and executes them against the Local data silo. If matching samples are found, the Connector notifies the biobanker, who can proceed to the Negotiator if desired.

As additional functionality, the Connector is able to extract the aggregated metadata about the sample/data collections from the Local data silo, allowing for automated or semi-automated (after approval) updates of the relevant data in the BBMRI-ERIC Directory. This makes the Connector a central part of the architecture, a component which acts as a bridge between the locally installed components in the biobank network and the central components hosted by BBMRI-ERIC. It also plays an important role in creating data protection and privacy and creating trust among partner biobanks.

Open and confidential connector

A standard implementation of a decentral search architecture does not allow for the Connector to send any kind of automated response to the Sample Locator. We call this option the confidential Connector. It supports the highest level of data protection and can be implemented in networks with a very stringent firewall.

The drawback of the confidential Connector is its low usability. With a confidential Connector, a researcher does not receive any kind of feedback before a human biobanker sees the query and takes the decision to reply (the Connector prepares a candidate reply for the biobanker, but the manual approval or possible manual modification of the reply is needed). This creates an uncertainty about the fate of a query and results possibly very lengthy gathering of the responses from the biobanks.

As an alternative, we also support open Connector, which response to a query by sending to the Sample Locator the number of candidate samples in its biobank. The Sample Locator then sums up all results and displays them to the researcher without revealing the candidate biobanks from which the results came.

The open Connector option has the advantages of better usability since it provides timely feedback. It avoids a situation in which a researcher creates a query without results, but is not notified and continues waiting to be contacted. It also allows the researcher to fine-tune the query until a reasonably high number of candidate samples is achieved, before committing to using it for negotiation. It is however not well accepted by all biobanks, since the return of the number of samples may be a breach of their privacy policy. Also, it is more complex to implement, which increases the risk of meeting all the goals of the ADOPT project in the projected timeline.

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