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replies to Stock center Privacy

Tue May 31 01:36:32 EST 1994

Here are a few more responses to the letter about stock center
privacy. It occurred to me that by including the names of
correspondents I may have discouraged negative responses. Therefore,
I will remove the names from any future correspondence on this issue.
 Correspondent-12 has raised a flag of caution by noting that without
some mechanism to support fair play, release of information about
stock requests may penalize small labs and young investigators. 
However, I wonder if it might not be a bigger problem for young
investigators not to know that they are starting work on an EST or
mutant that a large group is already working on.
    It may be relevant
to mention in the context of this discussion that it is now possible
to log into the NSF Gopher and get the summaries of anyones grant
that you are interested in. Furthermore, you can obtain the actual
proposal through the freedom of information act. The most recent
numbers I have seen for this is that more than 700 NIH grants have
been requested under the freedom of information act. 
   In regard to the
suggestion concerning establishing an Arabidopsis equivalent to the
Worm Breeders Gazette I should mention that Mary Anderson has been
working on establishing an Arabidopsis newsletter via the WWW (world
wide web).  If you have not yet learned how to use the WWW I strongly
recommend that you take steps to learn how.  The MSU sequencing group
is also collaborating with a biocomputing group at the University of
Minnesota (Ernie Retzel and colleagues) who are building a WWW
package (ie., Mosaic) that will allow you to explore and exploit the
EST data with much more powerful and friendly tools that I have seen
in any other format. 

 I'm all for the concept of open availability of information
on stocks etc.  Along the same vein, I wonder if the steering
committee has considered an on-line (or paper) newsletter on the
order of the Worm Breeder's Gazette from C. elegans.  It seems that a
rather unseemly (almost Drosophiloid) veil of secrecy has descended
on the affairs of a number of labs.  Maybe a Gazette with 2 or 3
annual issues would encourage a little more openess.  It seems like
there is so much to do in Arabidopsis right now that I can't imagine
that the prevailing level of paranoia is justified.  I certainly have
gone with pervailing trends in this regard and withheld aspects of my
projects from general knowledge, but I've always felt stupid for
worrying about it.  Perhaps if there was a little bit more
appreciation for respecting others ideas and research territories,
as appears to be the case in C. elegans, the field could really open
  Generally this has required occasional corrective action from S.
Brenner and B. Horvitz when blatant encroachments occur, I don't know
if members of the steering committee want to play cop in this regard
or not. I have to say that the same arguement applies to the concept
of ESTs and seed stocks, if we encourage an environment in which the
initiative and ideas of junior researchers is encouraged and
protected then I have no problem with open exchange of information. 
If it isn't coupled with a more general opening up of the field, with
labs publishing up to date research summaries etc. then I fail to see
the benefit of opening up just a portion of the field.  It's the
prisoner's dilemma with the added filip that one member is forced to
confess his/her research interests while others are not.  As such I
advocate either a completely open field or a completely closed one,
with only partial openness it seems that large labs benefit from
information while small labs and post-docs get parasitized.  I am
certainly willing to send a research summary to the first issue of
the Arabidopsis Breeders Gazette, and I bet if other folks thought
long and hard about it they would too.  Now might be good time to
lift the veil before things start getting really nasty.  A little
intervention now might really pay off in the long run.  
  Maybe a simple way to begin would be to have any inquiries
concerning est orders forwarded to those that initially requested the
est clones?  Then technology acts as the priest, forcing us all into

reply-13 Thank you for emphasizing that it is smarter to cooperate
and save time rather than compete. It is also more fun, and there's
no point doing science 60 hrs/week unless it's fun! My feeling is that
ideas are a dime a dozen (except perhaps the few that are truly
original) and you cant make anything out of any kind of  idea
without a lot of fairly tedious work. So let's cut down on the work
load and enjoy the ideas more!

    I would support the idea to make lists of names who requested 
Chris Somerville
Carnegie Institution
290 Panama Street
Stanford, CA 94305
fax 415-325-6857

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