On The Role Of Biocomputing Services {RE: structure of bionet}

Reinhard Doelz doelz at comp.bioz.unibas.ch
Sat Aug 20 02:15:27 EST 1994

James Mahaffy (mahaffy at dordt.edu) wrote:
: 	Some of the discussion on Bionet/Usenet made me wonder a bit about
: the structure of Bionet. 


following the recent discussion on both the news.groups/news.admin.misc
and the bionet.general groups where once-again a dispute started whether 
or not main players in the area have done well in the past with the bionet.* 
hierarchy let me state the following: 

o   the bionet.* hierarchy is a model system for a special interest group 
             which deserves all input it can ever get - discussions on 
             whether USENET rules apply or not indicate that the flexibility
             of the old days seems to get faded out. However, history shows
             that Organisations which prohobited debates on their structure
             did not live as long as they would have if they would have read
             the signs early. Claiming that bionet.* should not be transpor-
             ted is lokking to me as if the Community is violating their 
             own ethics which imply to get information transported and shared. 

o   commercials and other *serious* _BIOLOGY_ users (this goes to all 
             scientists with cookbooks, rarely using computers, but utilizing
             the medium as a resource which gets them exchange and 
             information in the biological area) will not use 'alt' or 
             other newsgroups which are as little structured as such in the
             as sci.bio* - they want taylored information in useful volumes. 
             If only possible, a fully moderated bionet.* were what we need! 
             Don't understand me wrong - not _censor_, but _quality_ modera-
             tion is the goal. Bionet has some duplications and did have 
             some noise in the past due to invaders from other areas, but 
             the main reason for having bionet is to allow discussions 
             _for_ biologists _by_ biologists. 

o   All (and I *mean* all) who have contributed to the success of bionet.*
             deserve the greatest respect of the biologist community. To 
             state that someone does this only to get money is a very unusual
             way to express an opinion which is definitively not shared by 
             the 'silent masses'. There is no need to be keen on taking over
             the jobs of Alan B. or Dave K. as those poor folks certainly 
             work far beyond the work time in their contracts.  

o   Funding (in particular, PUBLIC funding) has failed to recognize that there
             is a big gap in the biological information cycle of today. The 
             religion that every valued research has to be published by a 
             printed journal was a good way to boost publisher's revenues but 
             has led to a drastic decay of the information refereeing in elec-
             tronic sources. This led to lots of partially dangerous data 
             in (e.g.) sequence databases and resources which those 
             researchers use with an ease and believe that all they do is 
             enjoy their right of free information. The 'free' data are, 
             however, neither correctly addressed nor do we have a reasonable 
             mechanism to discuss and communicate those on electronic basis. 
             Even worse, very good and essential data sets or papers which 
             are published electronically are 'discriminated' in quality 
             just because of this fact. Those who curate the data are 
             sparsely supported, and those who get the data to the 
             researcher are penalized by mostly not being funded at all. 
             bionet.* is the forum of biologists which we need for discussion,
             and allows to break the catch22 cycle.
o   Some of you may have refused grant proposals written by those who 
             develop methods of communication in Biology , with the 
             argument that research project in this field are belie-
             ved to be 'non-scientific'. If so, shame on you! I know of 
             several grant proposals internationally which have been written
             in the best intention to utilize existing experience and do 
             research on communication of these data, and these have been 
             turned down, getting some of the structures raised in years 
             to the limit of existence in only days. Communicating is as 
             important work as producing results, or collect the data. 
             Neither Informatics, nor Biology, nor any other discipline 
             currently accepts the biocomputing arena of these projects 
             to be 'scientific'. bionet can help to correct this impression. 

o   Whatever 'vote' is required for a bionet.* group to start, bionet has 
             proven to be a useful resource. Announcing groups by 'collective'
             vote is giving the organizations which have not been active in 
             the field yet a unique chance to get up to speed in very short 
             time. Who would like to be responsible for this chance being 
             missed? They're feeding authenticated, free information to 
             USENET, and instead of causing you pay for it you get the 
             professional societie's bulletins right away in an environment 
             where (a) the consumer is likely to want it and (b) does 
             very much appreciate to get it 1st hand, rather than indirectly.

The point is, we need any help we can get, and any volunteered activity is 
blessing the needs. Come and join forces, try to behave! We all appreciate 
Dave K.'s and Alan B.'s work on bionet, and Una's Guide to the Internet is 
certainly worth reading. No need to be jealous that both might possibly be 
employed to do this work - listening to permanent attacks is cetrainly worth 
to reconsider

   y o u r 

position as consumer. Have you already thought to thank the person who got 
you this message on the biologist's desk today? No? Then try to find out 
who are the good guys in the backstage department and say "thank you". Not 
only morally, but also in changing the spirit of the funding agencies. After 
all, too sad, we are dependent on 

  m o n e y. 

My SFr. 0.02 from the European side...
Reinhard Doelz

  |    Dr. Reinhard Doelz     | Tel. x41 61 2672247    Fax x41 61 2672078 |
  |      Biocomputing         | electronic Mail       doelz at urz.unibas.ch |
  |Biozentrum der Universitaet+-------------------------------------------+

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