Friday, March 21, 2008

GenBank balks at third-party curation

Today's issue of Science has an interesting news item regarding a group of mycolgists' call to open GenBank up to third-party curation, citing inaccuracy in up to 20% of the records. GenBank stands staunchly against allowing anyone but the primary authors to edit records.

"That we would wholesale start changing people's records goes against our idea of an archive," says David Lipman, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), GenBank's home in Bethesda, Maryland. "It would be chaos."
Lipman's foreseeing "chaos" as a result of allowing third-party curation seems a great overstated opinion—a kneejerk reaction, if you will. I fail to see GenBank's point of view, which seems to value above all authority (the primary author knows her data best), whereas the point of view of Bidartondo et al. values truth above all (wisdom of community). Life science research stands the greatest chance with truth.

As the Science news article points out, the demand for third-party curation will only continue to grow. Given GenBank remains obstinate, the solution then will come from the community. This makes me wonder, how hard would it be to duplicate GenBank? Given that one can't apply for a grant to do so, where will funding come from? Will the duplication come in the form of many "yet another" databases (bottom-up) or a collective effort from a consortium of movers and shakers (top-down)?

On an unrelated note, I'd like to give a shout out to Deepak Singh, whose great blog posts have inspired me to try my hand at scientific blogging. Thanks, Deepak!