In the short term, a national strategy for bioinformatics requires the plant-research community to place greater emphasis on integrating bioinformatics approaches into its work. That includes training, collaboration with large data centers, and bioinformatics-oriented research itself, such as the creation of specialized databases or new views into genomic data that lead to novel insights. General databases will be needed to provide community services for the reference species, and they should be developed with community participation. The stewards of data and the creators of databases and tools should not act independently but should communicate and coordinate with each other and with public genome repositories to develop common platforms, standards, and interfaces.
In the long term, the common platforms and specifications will become the foundation of a “genomics grid” that will allow appropriately trained investigators to harness the power of a broad network of distributed databases, tools, and computing power from their desktops. That vision of the future requires investment in a computational infrastructure (hardware and software) needed not only for plant biology but for all of genomics research nationally. The NPGI should be a leader on the path to that goal.
To lay the groundwork for this vision, we offer the following specific recommendations for the next 5-year phase of the NPGI.
1. Support the development of community databases as tools to generate knowledge.
Scope and participation: In the context of the NPGI, bioinformatics must serve the unique information needs of diverse research groups focused on different plants and different research goals. The relevant research groups, nationally and internationally, must be active participants in the development of dynamic, interoperable, specialized databases.
Databases should provide an intellectual focus for the integration and interpretation of a wide spectra of biologic data. If properly conceived and constructed, a dynamic, distributed database interrelating everything