December 78, 1998
Research on model
organisms advances the understanding of biological processes and
disease states. The NIH Model Organism Database Workshop was convened
to provide recommendations on reviewing and implementing genomic,
genetic, and phenotypic database projects that support and provide
access to research on model organisms. Several themes emerged:
- Biology-driven: The driving
force of a model organism database (MOD) is the biology, not the
technology. The database should allow the user to ask critical
biological questions. Thus, data content, organization, currency,
and accuracy are paramount. The MOD database platform should be a
solid, robust product that can support the data, not a product still
in an experimental stage.
- Breadth of information:
MODs must contain or link to information ranging from molecular
structure and function to phenotype, with both high-throughput and
community-generated information. Much genetic and phenotypic
information is less structured and, thus, more labor-intensive and
expensive to collect and annotate than genomic data; however, it is
essential that it be included.
- Curation: MODs are
value-added databases; their primary function is to integrate data
from disparate sources, connecting related data and enhancing its
contextual information. Expert domain knowledge is essential for
high-quality data capture, and this will typically require that
curators have Ph.D.-level research backgrounds.
- User access: MODs must
recognize the hardware, software, and network capabilities of the
community they serve. In addition, it is essential that end users
receive the funding to keep up with the rapidly advancing technology
needed to access MODs.
- Communities: MODs must have
deep ties to their organismal communities, supporting their multiple
roles as data consumers, data curators, and data providers. MODs
must also be able to support inquiries from broader scientific
- Advisory groups: External
advisory groups should provide regular advice to the MOD, the
research communities, and the funding agencies. Advisory groups
should include MOD users, software specialists, and representatives
from other MODs.
- Priorities: MODs must set
clear priorities for data content, data capture, organization,
curation, annotation, navigation, and presentation.
- Database connections: MODs
must establish and maintain effective cross-links among themselves
as well as with other types of databases. These links enable
synthetic data analysis and permit databases to share information
without redundant data management.
- Leveraging existing projects:
New MODs should consider affiliating with existing MODs. Existing
software should be reused or adapted when possible.
- Research: Bioinformatics
research is important to support the infrastructural role of the
MODs. MOD projects should perform informatics research and training.
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