Data sharing collaborations

As the number of published sequences increased, the workflow changed: by opening discussions with publishers of the scientific literature, the organisations behind these databases convinced publishers to request that researchers submit their sequences to one of the public databases before submitting the paper. In return, authors gained an accession number that could then be cited in the paper. This model has now been followed by many providers of public biological data. Table 1 provides some significant examples.

The other important aspect of these collaborations is that their participants exchange data and/or assign workload in such a way as to avoid duplication of effort whilst ensuring that data are annotated and made available in a consistent way.

Table 1 Some examples of global collaborations established to manage the public record of different biological data types.

Data typeCollaboration
Nucleotide sequencesInternational Sequence Database Collaboration
Protein sequencesUniProt Consortium
Macromolecular structuresWorldwide Protein Data Bank
Molecular interactionsThe International Molecular Exchange Consortium
Protein identificationsThe ProteomeXchange Consortium
Metabolomics dataCoordination of Standards in Metabolomics
Genomic and clinical dataGlobal Alliance for Genomics and Health

Who owns the data?

From the very beginning, the bioinformatics community has championed open data sharing, and turned it into a reality through collaborations such as the ones summarised in Table 1. This open policy has enabled the research community to make good use of data emerging from major international projects such as the Human Genome Project (2) and the Encode project. However, it’s important to realise that open data sharing is not just for these big collaborations. Recent changes in funding policy have begun to reflect the now widely held view that, if public money is being spent on research (in any field), the data from that research should be made publicly available for others to make use of.