NEW YORK, Feb. 24 - The National Human Genome Research Institute is seeking comment from the scientific community on a draft version of a document that intends to "reaffirm and extend" a set of guidelines governing the rapid release of genome sequence data.
The draft document upholds the "Bermuda Principles" that the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium adopted in 1996 to ensure the automatic, rapid release of DNA sequence assemblies of 2 kilobases or greater into the public domain within 24 hours of their generation. It also addresses a concern that arose following an extension of the policy in 2000 mandating that randomly generated whole-genome shotgun data be deposited in a public sequence trace repository prior to its assembly. This requirement placed the scientists generating the primary data at risk of being "scooped" by other researchers, so a statement was added to the sequence trace data permitting the scientific community to use it for all purposes, with the sole exception of publication of a complete genome sequence assembly or other large-scale analyses in advance of the sequence producer's publication.
Early last year, a community debate began regarding the scientific repercussions of placing limitations on any type of sequence data. In response, the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research (NACHGR), the main advisory group to the NHGRI, approved a draft policy to extend the Bermuda Principles to all types of sequence data at a meeting held Feb. 10-11.
The draft guidelines also extend the Bermuda Principles to "community resource projects" -- any project initiated to create "a set of data, reagents, or other material whose primary utility will be as a resource for the broad scientific community."
In addition, the NHGRI plans to implement a system of "tripartate responsibility," in which the three stakeholders in the scientific system -- data producers, data users, and funding agencies -- are equally responsible for upholding the tradition of open and rapid data release.
According to the draft policy, "sequence producers must recognize that even if the sequence data are occasionally used in ways that violate normal standards of scientific etiquette, unconditional release of sequence data from large-scale sequence production centers is a necessary risk set against the considerable benefits of immediate data release. Sequence users, in turn, must accept that they have significant responsibilities consistent with standard scientific norms. Users of unpublished genomic sequence data are expected to acknowledge the source of the sequence data through the use of appropriate citations."
NHGRI will accept comments on the policy until April 23. NACHGR plans to discuss both the policy and the comments received at its meeting on May 10-11.