Backup and Storage

Genetic sequence data ‘should be stored digitally for better access’

DNA data could be better used and applied if it were available to scientists all over the world, it has been claimed.

Scientific research is being held back because researchers do not have easy access to previously published information about genetic sequence comparisons, it has been claimed.

A study by researchers at the University of Florida found that around 70 per cent of this data is not currently publicly accessible.

This is despite the fact that understanding organismal relationships can be useful for projects including creating agricultural and pharmaceutical products, studying climate change, tracking emerging diseases and much more.

In the journal PLoS Biology, co-author of the study Doug Soltis from the Florida Museum of Natural History said it highlights the need for more effective data storage methods in the long term. He urged journal publishers to adopt better data-sharing policies.

"What we need is a major change in our mindset about just how important it is to deposit your data – this has to be a standard part of what we do, because if it’s not there, it’s lost forever," he commented.

At present, scientists are forced to contact hundreds of researchers with information requests about missing genetic data if they cannot find what they need, or attempt to replicate it themselves, both of which can prove ineffective.

Professor Elizabeth Kellogg from the University of Missouri-St Louis was not involved in the research, but she agreed that something should be done to alter things.

"There are databases for archiving, but some of their interfaces are somewhat cumbersome and if you haven’t previously done this, it can appear to be a daunting task," she said.

DNA or genetic sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule, something researchers have only been able to do for a relatively short time. However, it has accelerated biological and medical research significantly and so has quickly become indispensable all over the world.

Although access to such information could help scientists, it would also be necessary for publishers to think about data protection should Mr Soltis’s appeal come to fruition and archive document storage on this scale begin.