Sharing Data in the Biotech Community

Vivien Marx of reports, "In January, over 50 researchers from 30 academic and commercial organizations agreed on a standard for describing data sets. The BioSharing initiative, comprising both researchers and publishers, launched the Investigation-Study-Assay (ISA) Commons, which promises to streamline data sharing among different databases. Life scientists have thousands of databases, over 300 terminologies and more than 120 exchange formats at their disposal, says BioSharing co-founder Susanna-Assunta Sansone of the University of Oxford. In this era of collaborative big science, researchers only move forward by 'walking together.' Although increased data sharing is central to scientific progress and is attracting attention from many quarters, standards are only some of the stars that must align to make it possible."

She continues, "Oversharing is embarrassing in social media but sharing is always a virtue for scientists. Although many scientists embrace the idea of sharing data in research, few manage it in practice. The traditional sharing method—the research paper—has made the transition online through HTML and PDF formats, but is becoming outmoded and unwieldy as life science research generates increasingly varied types of big data sets to be associated with a claim. These data sets quickly pile up as high-throughput instruments spray a fire hose of data in giga- or terabyte-sized files. Data are also getting an ever longer tail: the provenance of claims, hypotheses and arguments, along with supporting metadata, methods, software code and tools, multimedia, workflows and models. These challenges are spurring initiatives, such as BioSharing and several other nonprofit and commercial projects, to make sharing easier and more palatable."

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