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More replies to stock center privacy issue

Tue May 31 21:19:56 EST 1994

Here are today's responses to the stock center privacy issue. In
addition to commenting on the original issue, correspondent-15
addresses the importance of having everyone place their materials
in the stock center. Perhaps this could be accomplished by
requiring an accession number for any mutant line or plasmid strain
before a paper could be published in our premier journals. Everyone
now accepts this as standard practice for nucleotide sequences so
it would seem like a small but useful step.  Correspondent-16
offers some sage advice and Correspondent-17 was moved to poetry. 
     My thanks to everyone who responded. Although the response was
overwhelmingly in favor of release of the information, several
people raised an operational problem (spurious requests) which will
be considered by the Stock Center Committees at the Amsterdam

Replies follow*******

Reply- 15
I disagree with the generally expressed opinion that all ordering
information should be made available, as I doubt that this will
really further the cause,i.e., avoid duplication of work.  First of
all, if you are really interested in an experiment, you should just
do it, and not wait for other people to do it for you.  Second, the
disclosure of who ordered what can be equally abused, e.g., I might
just order all kinds of stock to evoke the impression that I'm
starting some experiments that I don't have any time for anyway.
Thus, it could lead to a lot of superfluous requests (Am I too
cynical?).  I would rather support that the number of orders is
disclosed.  This would give everybody an idea of how popular a
certain gene/strain is right now (or was five years ago).
  The main issue that I see at stake is how to force certain people
in the field to make their material freely available, either by
sending it out themselves, or by depositing the material in the
stock center.  I would support some rather extraordinary measures
to force people to just do that, because I find it most annoying to
know that some material is available, but one has to go through the
trouble to isolate it over again (even with PCR and what not). 
Unfortunately, there are still too many colleagues who don't get it
that once some material is published it is public domain.  I
understand that many of us are afraid of getting burnt (I am
certainly not free of these anxieties myself), but it is like
democracy:  In many single situations, this system might be less
than ideal, but overall it's still the best system in the world
(and I'd rather not rely on some super patres familiae, as
suggested based on experience from the worm field, which is getting
pretty rough itself these days).Here is a concrete proposal:  The
stock center screens the relevant literature for newly isolated
Arabidopsis mutants and clones.  It then requests that this
material be deposited in the stock center.  By the end ofthe year,
the stock center publishes the responses it got.  If people rather
send material out themselves, the stock center also announces this
publicly. The problem here is of course how to handle grievances,
i.e., how to deal with colleagues who announce that they are
willing to share their material,but then don't.  I don't have any
good suggestion to get around this, since any arbitration committee
might have too much to do.  Who has some good idea? 

I'm delighted with the discussion on open communication and I am
pleased to throw my weight (oops!) behind you, for what it is
worth.  Given the struggles of plant researchers to fund their
research, I think there is far more to be gained from collaboration
than from competition, particularly for young investigators.  Now
is definitely the time to set the example and I think that it might
be a really good idea to develop a "Weedbreeders' Digest"
 of rapid electronic communication of results at the same time that
the "disclosure" forms are constructed.   I am deeply disturbed by
my encounters with the growing "paranoia"  -- yes, it is always
tough to get started, but I have the feeling that young
investigators see senior investigators as predatory by definition. 
A few may be -- this always has been and always will be true.  But
more are not and I think that a willingness to share materials
remains the distinguishing legacy of plant genetics.  Everyone will
profit by maintaining the tradition.  We've all been young
investigators at one point and I, for one, haven't forgotten the
anxiety.  I concluded early on that I couldn't be secretive even if
I wanted to, because the pleasure of science is both in the doing
and in the sharing, so I lost more by not talking than I risked by
talking.  And I think it is fair to say that I've seen very few
good investigators get lost because they got scooped on one
clone -- good work over the long haul is still the best route to

let the bells of freedom ring clear-secrecy breeds 

I prefer the idea that all requests are made public.  It seems a
waste for several groups to be doing the same experiment with these
ESTs.  If we don't, it defeats the purpose of the EST data bases,
which was eliminating some of the grunt work.
I am strongly in favor of stock and EST requests being a matter
 of public knowledge.  Arabidopsis research has advanced more
rapidly than I think any of us predicted, in part because of a
positive community spirit.  If a battle is to be waged,
(...something missing here)
    I am rather strongly opposed, however, to an Arabidopsis
Breeder's Gazette.  Such a publication has the arguably negative
effects of (1) discouraging investigators from publishing in widely
read journals, and (2) creating an exclusive "club" aura

I strongly believe that since the stock center is supported by
public money, and most of the stocks contained therein were
developed with public money,that the information should be

Chris Somerville
Carnegie Institution
290 Panama Street
Stanford, CA 94305
fax 415-325-6857

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