Informatics discussion on Genome newsgroup!

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at GENBANK.BIO.NET
Wed Mar 7 15:03:47 EST 1990

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A discussion on Informatics policy for the Genome project may occur if
the Joint Informatics Task Force (JIFT) agrees to the proposal below
which was posted to the Genome newsgroup in response to an official
announcement about the formation and goals of the JITF.  I, for one,
believe that this proposal would be in the best interest of the
scientific community at large.  Perhaps you have an opinion on these
issues too.


				David Kristofferson, Ph.D.
				GenBank On-line Service Manager

				kristoff at


Dear Mark, other JITF members, and readers of the HUMAN-GENOME-PROGRAM

I was pleased to see the announcement about the Joint Informatics Task
Force (JITF) and the statement of its ambitious goals.  To achieve
these goals, it will be necessary to consider many complex
interdisciplinary issues, and it is my hope that the views and
experience of the community will be considered as part of these

This newsgroup in particular is an ideal source of information and a
channel of communication that is open to all who can get e-mail access
(which should be just about anyone with an interest in informatics).
Interest in the group has been widespread as judged by the rapidly
increasing readership.  The audience is truly international consisting
of readers in places as far away as Australia, Asia, and South America
in addition to the usual North America / European axis.

I am concerned that as the sums of money allocated for the Genome
Project increase, pressures from "old boy" networks, industrial
lobbyists, and those with personal agendas, etc., will also increase
to divvy up the pie in a less than fair fashion.  It would be of great
interest to the scientific community as a whole if JITF's proceedings
were more accessible to everyone.

Not everyone with an interest in the project will have the lobbying
resources to be in Washington continually or even to travel to more
than a couple of the public meetings.  HOWEVER, it is possible for
everyone to study the issues if they are presented over this newsgroup
for open discussion.

To facilitate this, I would propose the following:

1) The JITF should pick a noted person or persons with expertise in
each issue under consideration and have them write a position "paper"
for posting to the newsgroup.  This would give all of the readership
the chance to study and formulate responses to the issues.  I would
expect that JITF could reasonably expect *better* feedback in this
fashion.  Readers would be able to reflect and respond in the privacy
of their offices instead of having to compete for the microphone with
sometimes daunting personalities at meetings.  A specified period for
comments, e.g., a month or two after the posting of the position
paper, could be established.

2) After public comment has been taken and a decision made, JITF could
then publish its findings and the reasons for its policy
recommendations on the newsgroup.

There may be some who will oppose this proposal by saying that their
past experience with electronic newsgroups has been less than
satisfactory.  I would humbly submit that the past is NOT a guide
here, because the number of people with e-mail/news access AND
interest in the same has increased dramatically over a few years back.
More importantly, the expressed interest and sponsorship of the Genome
Office in this newsgroup is a brand new element in the equation and is
largely responsible for the recent surge of interest in the group. 

I would be perfectly happy to volunteer my services in helping JITF
organize the above event, if such help is needed.

				Dave Kristofferson
				GenBank On-line Service Manager

				kristoff at

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