Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Barcode of Life to rival GenBank? Really?

Mr. Ratnasingham’s has been awarded 04-05-10 GBIF's annual prestigious Ebbe Nielsen Award for his work on BOLD. This itself is fair enough given the widespread use of of barcoding - even though it is not undisputed and has a very limited function in the rapidly developing world of whole genome sequences, the combination of morphological and DNA data for phylogenetic analyses.

What I find almost absurd is the statement by Krishtalka, the Chair of the GBIF Science Committee
"The impact and strategic significance of BOLD, according to Krishtalka, promises to rival that of Genbank. “BOLD enables a growing number of scientists to both register and access critical genomic data in a common way for complex research and research applications for science and society, both inside and outside the domains of biodiversity science.”

How can be a short sequence be a solution to complex problems? How can a short sequence solve problems of large phylogeny most of which use mutliple genes and conclude that many sequences are needed to infer a phylogenetic hypothesis that can not be easily criticized? How can Barcode make sense outside a framework of species that are also described by at least images, georeferences and some other vebatim? Clearly, a quick identification, the indication that there could be hidden species, the link between various life stages, or in the long term the identification of samples including multiple taxa is promising. But this is rather a complement to other tools, even simple visual examination of specimens that will bring ahead science and especially the applied side of it.
To consider competing with GenBank seems just the opposite what is needed: Collaborate to serve together to solve biodiversity in the interest of science and conservation with all the limited resources we have.

With such an agenda in mind of the chairman, I can not agree that this is a good choice. Sorry GBIF.


Blogger Ana said...

100% agreed

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