With the goal of improving integration and sustainability of model organism databases, in September 2016 the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) established the Alliance for Genome Resources (AGR), which is a consortium of 6 model organism databases (MODs) and the Gene Ontology (GO) Consortium.
Up to this point, the AGR has existed in parallel to the established model organism databases. However, the expectation of NHGRI has been that the research community would shift toward using the AGR, and reductions in the funding of the established model organisms databases have recently started to occur. The Fiscal Year 2020 NIH budget request included a 14.5% reduction in funding for the program that supports AGR. In association with these proposed funding cuts, concern has risen in various model organism communities about what any potential changes could mean and what current information will continue to be provided to individual database users.
In particular, while many researchers view improved integration as important, some feel strongly that this integration should not be gained at the expense of the individual databases and the important services they currently provide their communities.
The members of the ASCB leadership joined the leadership of the Genetics Society of America (GSA) in sending a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins and various institute directors reminding them of the important role these individual databases have played in the past and asking them to preserve the expertise and information contained in these various databases.
Individual members may also wish to contact NHGRI to share specific concerns about the eventual outcome of the database modernization.
What should you say? Sharing your personal story is always the best advocacy tool. You may wish to focus your comments on the following areas:
- Any transition should be mindful of community needs.
- Members of each model organism community should be included in making decisions.
- Sufficient funding levels should be provided to maintain unique components of the individual databases once the transition has been completed.
- Of particular concern is the need to maintain historic database information for each model organism community.
About the Author:
Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org