The Beacon protocol defines an open standard for genomics data discovery, developed by members of the Global Alliance for Genomics & Health. It provides a framework for public web services responding to queries against genomic data collections, for instance from population based or disease specific genome repositories.
The Beacon protocol has been designed to be:
The initial version of the Beacon protocol had been developed to test the willingness and ability of international genome resources to share genomic data in a highly simplified context. The service was designed to accept specific queries in the form “Do you have any genomes with an ‘A’ at position 100735 on chromosome 3” and responds with “Yes” or “No.”
A site offering this service is called a beacon. Such sites can scale through aggregation in the Beacon Networks, which distribute single genome queries among a large number of international beacons and assemble their responses.
Recent and future versions of the Beacon protocol expand the original concept by providing a framework for querying other types of genome variation data (i.e. range queries and structural variants since v0.4) and also options for quantitative responses.