Scientists sharing Omicron data were heroic. Let’s ensure they don’t regret it | Jeffrey Barrett | The Guardian
peter.suber's bookmarks 2021-11-29
"The global scientific community has also carried out “genomic surveillance” – sequencing the genome of the virus to track how it evolves and spreads at an unprecedented level: the public genome database has more than 5.5m genomes. The great value of that genomic surveillance, underpinned by a commitment to rapid and open sharing of the data by all countries in near-real time, has been seen in the last few days as we’ve learned of the Covid variant called Omicron.
The surveillance requires a remarkable amount of cooperation between scientists to build compatible laboratory protocols, software systems and databases. Many of these scientists are not directly paid for this work and do it in addition to their existing jobs. They are motivated by a belief that sharing data relevant to public health, especially in a pandemic, can help speed up scientific understanding, aid in decision-making and contribute to the next generation of medicines.
This commitment to rapid data sharing has deep roots in genomics. At a 1996 summit in Bermuda, the leaders of the Human Genome Project established a set of principles to release a new DNA sequence to public databases within 24 hours. This approach departed from the established convention that experimental data only needed to be released when a study was published, months or years later. Sir John Sulston, founding director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “All of this [genome data] should be in the public domain... I think we need a public social welfare attitude to the use of this information.”
That attitude now prevails around the world, as evidenced by the rapid sharing of more than 1m Sars-CoV-2 sequences by the Sanger Institute since March 2020...."