worthwhile. This is a pipeline that is poorly supported by traditional grant-funding mechanisms.
The rise of genomics has been characterized by both technological and scientific innovations and by novel practices in data dissemination. In the early 1980s the scientific community in Europe and the United States established community archives for nucleic acid sequence data. These data immediately became accessible in a form suitable for computer analysis and were freely available, without impediment to all researchers, whether in academe or in industry. It is no exaggeration to state that without these publicly accessible databanks, the success of the Human Genome Project and similar genome projects would not have been possible. It is vital that the metagenomics community continue to adhere to the practice of publicly depositing, in a timely manner, all relevant data.
It should also be remembered that the more is known about microbes, the greater value metagenomics data will have. Thus, it is extremely important that basic microbiology research not be neglected, but instead be strengthened and deepened. Active communication between metagenomics researchers and members of other subdisciplines of microbiology and their representatives in funding agencies will help to guide the various fields in complementary directions.
Metagenomics presents some specific challenges for training experts and some global opportunities for educating the public about microbiology. The interdisciplinary nature of the science of metagenomics necessitates deployment of new training programs to encourage scientists to broaden their skills beyond those learned in their own disciplines. Graduate programs, intensive courses, fellowship programs, and sabbatical support are all mechanisms that can be used to develop investigators with the necessary configuration of skills and knowledge. Metagenomics also offers an opportunity to integrate public communication into graduate training. Each metagenomics project should design ways of teaching graduate students the principles of effective public outreach and then provide opportunities for them to use their new skills.
The dazzling power and opportunity of metagenomics as well as the “Big Science” nature of the large-sized projects in the Global Metagenomics Initiative will attract public interest in microbiology. The sense of delving into a truly unknown world, the potential for deriving human benefit from microbes, and the sheer power of microbes to influence just about every earthly function provide an irresistible draw for the public. Therefore, both large and small projects can be used as catalysts for teaching microbiology. Each large project should have a budget for developing materials that