Collection launched: 27 Feb 2020
The global distribution and exchange of microorganisms became an important component of contemporary life sciences. This movement is related to several scientific developments, among which the introduction of improved techniques for the handling and long-term maintenance of living microbiological samples (e.g. freezing, freeze-drying), and thus easier and safer shipping of samples, had a major impact. Similarly, the development of innovative methods for the isolation and cultivation of novel microbial strains, the genomics revolution, and the broader impact of globalization of research in the life sciences in general enhanced interest and cooperation in microbial research. As a result, vast amounts of plant and animal genetic material are collected and microorganisms isolated throughout the world from various habitats and sources, and exchanged in collaborative research networks for the improvement of global food security, public health and climate change mitigation. Nevertheless, the relatively frictionless exchange of biological materials within a global commons, which prevailed during the early days of modern life sciences, now seems to be reversed. More and more biological materials are enclosed behind national and privatized fences, or only accessible under very restrictive license conditions. This special collection focuses on the increasing threats to enclose the global commons in biological materials.