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Enraged Researcher Shuts Down Public Sequence Database, Claiming Unfair Use--Science

NEW YORK, Feb. 15-An angry Woods Hole microbiologist has shut down a public website of raw sequence data, charging that a rival team has published a journal article that relies heavily on the public database.

 

The dispute is reported in today's issue of Science.

 

Mitchell Sogin of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole shut down his Giardia lamblia website (www.mbl.edu/Giardia) two weeks ago following the online publication of an article discussing Giardia evolution in the February 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

That paper, written by Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist Hyman Hartman and Harvard University's Alexei Fedorov, suggests that eukaryotes' cell structures may derive from organisms that no longer exist.

 

Sogin and his collaborators have been sequencing the protozoa Giardia lamblia since 1997 under a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease grant. By the terms of that grant they have offered web access to raw sequence data-with the caveat that other teams use the data only to develop reagents or work on projects of mutual interest.

 

In Sogin's view, the authors of the PNAS paper had clearly crossed that line. "I was enraged," he told Science.

 

Sogin said his team had also planned to publish an analysis of Giardia's evolutionary history. It was the "intellectual rationale" for the grant, he said.

 

The Hartman and Fedorov paper cites Sogin's data, among others, but Hartman told Science that he used it only to filter out proteins of other organisms. He said he did not violate the terms posted on MBL's website.

 

Sogin said he will restore the site after the data sequence rules have been clarified.

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