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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

A response to Rome: lessons from pre- and post-publication data-sharing in the C. elegans research community

Matthew R Voell1*, Lily Farris2, Edwin Levy1 and Emily Marden3

Author Affiliations

1 W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia, 227 - 6356 Agricultural Road, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 Canada

2 Child & Adolescent Mental Health & Addiction Services, An Agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, Mental Health Building, Box 156, 4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6 H 3N1 Canada

3 ISIS - A Research Centre at the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, 2150 - 1055 W. Hasting Street, Vancouver, BC V6E 2E9 Canada

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:708  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-708

Published: 16 December 2010

Abstract

Background

In recent years numerous studies have undertaken to measure the impact of patents, material transfer agreements, data-withholding and commercialization pressures on biomedical researchers. Of particular concern is the theory that such pressures may have negative effects on academic and other upstream researchers. In response to these concerns, commentators in some research communities have called for an increased level of access to, and sharing of, data and research materials. We have been studying how data and materials are shared in the community of researchers who use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) as a model organism for biological research. Specifically, we conducted a textual analysis of academic articles referencing C. elegans, reviewed C. elegans repository request lists, scanned patents that reference C. elegans and conducted a broad survey of C. elegans researchers. Of particular importance in our research was the role of the C. elegans Gene Knockout Consortium in the facilitation of sharing in this community.

Results

Our research suggests that a culture of sharing exists within the C. elegans research community. Furthermore, our research provides insight into how this sharing operates and the role of the culture that underpins it.

Conclusions

The greater scientific community is likely to benefit from understanding the factors that motivate C. elegans researchers to share. In this sense, our research is a 'response' to calls for a greater amount of sharing in other research communities, such as the mouse community, specifically, the call for increased investment and support of centralized resource sharing infrastructure, grant-based funding of data-sharing, clarity of third party recommendations regarding sharing, third party insistence of post-publication data sharing, a decrease in patenting and restrictive material transfer agreements, and increased attribution and reward.