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RESEARCH TOOLS · More than 700 'open' databases now available from around the world


February 15, 2005 | The 2005 compendium of molecular biology databases compiled and published by Nucleic Acids Research shows a dramatic increase of 171 databases from 2004, bringing the new total up to 719.

The compendium, which is restricted to freely available life science databases that do not require downloading of special software (because of firewall restrictions), is accessible online at cgi/content/full/33/suppl_1/#TBL1.

Michael Galperin, an investigator at the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the NIH who coordinated the new compendium, says the compendium shows that "the open database movement is here to stay, and more and more people in the community (as well as in the financing bodies) now appreciate the importance of open databases in spreading knowledge."

This year's 12th annual database issue includes 719 databases, organized into 14 categories. The list includes new entries from countries such as Brazil, Cuba, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, and Malaysia.

Of the 548 databases featured in last year's compilation, 17 have been dropped from the list because they have been discontinued, merged into larger ones, or converted to commercial access. Galperin says that databases that offer valuable content "usually manage to survive, even if they have to change their funding scheme or migrate from one host institution to another."

The profusion of databases has little to do with personal credit, and certainly not financial remuneration. "Disk space is relatively cheap these days and database maintenance tools are fairly straightforward, so that a decent database can be created on a shoestring budget, often by a graduate student or as a result of a postdoctoral project," Galperin says.

While getting such projects off the ground is easy, maintaining and developing these resources with little or no funding requires "a commitment that can only be applauded" — particularly for scientists for whom English is not their native language.

The volume of immunology-related databases required the creation of a new category, largely in response to the genome project-fueled growth in data on immuno-polymorphisms, as well as a sprouting of plant-related genome databases.

Galperin's accompanying commentary is available at content/full/33/suppl_1/D5.* 

For reprints and/or copyright permission, please contact Angela Parsons, 781.972.5467.