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Letter to Science Asks Journal Not to Publish Off-Limits Genome-Sequence Papers

NEW YORK, March 14 - The ongoing controversy over journal publication and public access to commercially backed genome sequences flared up again this week. 


A coalition of 20 top genomic scientists have written a joint letter to Science asking that the journal not publish additional genome-sequence papers without including fully accessible sequence data.


The letter, first reported on in Science rival Nature, is signed by prominent researchers such as Washington University's Bob Waterston and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology's Aaron Klug.


This quarrel is not new: Many researchers attacked Science last year for publishing Celera's human-genome sequence paper without making the data freely available. Others defended the decision as a reasonable compromise between intellectual property rights and the scientific obligation to public access, pointing out that the data was, after all, available for a fee.


Word has recently spread that commercial enterprises are nearing publication on the mouse and rice genomes, spurring new hostilities in the debate. Syngenta is reputedly very near publishing a draft of the rice sequence, and Celera is widely expected to publish on the mouse genome soon.


Science Editor in Chief Donald Kennedy is quoted in the Nature report saying that his journal "is committed to full public access. But we will consider rare exceptions if the public benefits of removing valuable data and results from trade-secret status clearly exceed the costs to the scientific community of the precedent the exception might create."


The National Academy of the Sciences recently launched an initiative, backed by federal scientific agencies and the Sloan Foundation, to attempt to hammer out community standards for scientific publishing in the genomic era.

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