have to bring things into gigantic warehouses’ or try to federate databases. You try to create a level of information that can be exchanged among databases. In part, this goes along the lines of the discussions about whether you sequence in a center only or distribute the work in order to create local communities of scientists and train graduate students. This is particularly true in bioinformatics. If you have only centers for collecting information, you develop no local skills and no local students to use that information.”
“Centers like NCBI do an extraordinary job of archiving low-level information,” he continued. “But in the plant community, for instance, there is an immense difference in the interests of, say, the cereal genomicists versus just the legume folks. The legume folks have a high interest in secondary metabolism, symbiosis, and nitrogen fixation. Those are all functions that fit within community exploration of data and creation of data models and data-mining mechanisms appropriate to those. But they don’t map onto cereals, and if you try to force these into a one-size-fits-all model, you come down to a lowest common denominator of things that are done well.” In short, having different centers for different organisms allows each to specialize and take into account the areas of interest for that particular organism. It might make sense to accumulate certain types of information—generally the very basic, low-level information—in one, large central repository, but the higher-level information, with its sensitivity to the type of genome being considered, is better handled at individual centers.
No matter how the centers ultimately are organized, several participants expressed the view that more resources must be allocated toward bioinformatics if researchers are to be able to work with all the data that is being accumulated. “If you want a system,” White said, “that can dynamically manage data that’s coming in from several projects in parallel and have version dates and a help desk and just a well-engineered system, we are talking about a completely different magnitude of budget that’s required to do that.”