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NRC Recommends Global Metagenomics Initiative, Proposes Steps to Help Discipline Grow

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Research Council wants a global effort, similar to but larger than the Human Genome Project, to push the metagenomics field into the international scientific spotlight. 
Metagenomics offers unlimited potential to contribute not only to researchers’ understanding of the world, but also to the fields of medicine, agriculture, energy, and environmental management, the NRC’s Committee on Metagenomics said in a report released yesterday.
But the fledgling science needs nurturing in the form of big-picture thinking and large-scale support, the committee recommended in its report, entitled “The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of our Microbial Planet.”   
The committee, which comprises senior researchers and directors from major US universities and institutes, made a number of recommendations to the field at large, including the need for a “Global Metagenomics Initiative.”
This initiative would include small-, mid- and large-scale projects. The large-scale projects would be international, multi-center cooperative studies that would “represent a breadth of habitat” that would include natural environments, host-associated communities to explore relations between microbial communities  and the health of its host, and a “managed-environment” community that could help manage the “effects of environmental change or human activity on microbial communities.”
An interagency group similar to the Microbe Project should ensure free and open communications concerning metagenomics portfolios and bring researchers together through meetings and workshops, the committee suggests.
Metagenomics training programs should be patterned on the Cold Spring Harbor or Marine Biological Laboratories, which offer postdoctoral programs and summer courses that train researchers in metagenomics tools and principles, the committee said.
The group also advised funding agencies to develop mechanisms to identify widely used analytical tools and develop them to “robust standards.”
Public relations also will be important for genomic studies of microbial life, the committee said, and recommended that metagenomics projects should receive budgeting for materials that could be used to explain their work “in accessible and interesting ways.”
The report can be purchased or reviewed here.

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