GSA Seeks Support Regarding MOD Funding
The National Human Genome Research Insitute (NHGRI) has put forth plans to consolidate several major model organism databases (MODs) into a single combined database with a 30% reduction of funding for each MOD. Please read below an effort put forth by the Genetics Society of America (GSA) as well as the Zebrafish community who are raising concerns with these proposals. While Xenbase is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) and this does not impact Xenbase yet, it might in the near future. If the NIH proposal is adopted this could mean the end to MODs as we know them and the likely end to Xenbase. Also many of you probably use MGI, OMIM & ZFIN in your research. We strongly encourage you to sign the petition below which opposes the NIH proposal and supports maintaining model organism databases.
Dear Zebrafish Researchers,
As officers of the International Zebrafish Society (IZFS), we are writing to call your attention to a critical issue that has arisen for our community. The NIH institute (NHGRI) that supports ZFIN and other Model Organism Databases (MODs) is changing their funding approach. These changes are reported today in Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/1.20134) as well as previously in Science (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6268/14.long). NIH has put forth a plan where ZFIN and its equivalents for C. elegans, yeast, Drosophila, mouse and rat would combine into a single ‘uberMOD’, with an upcoming 30% cut in funding. While integration would increase accessibility of the functional data across communities, the current plan to reduce funding would have a severe impact on ZFIN’s ability to maintain zebrafish-specific datasets that many of us rely on daily.
Because of the broad impact of this plan on thousands of researchers, leaders of model organism communities together wrote a letter to NIH leadership that strongly supports the MODs and advocates for maintaining species-specific datasets with requisite funding. A bevy of prominent signatories, including Nobel laureates, heads of scientific societies, and National Academy members have already endorsed this initiative. We hope to gather thousands of additional signatures and present the letter to NIH Director Francis Collins at the TAGC meeting in Orlando. The letter can be easily signed on a website created by the GSA: http://www.genetics-gsa.org/MODsupport
We urge you to visit the above link and add your name to the Statement of Support. We also urge you to forward this email to colleagues and trainees in your lab, as we aim to collect signatures from all MOD users who concur (in signing, the question about NIH support, includes all those in an NIH-funded lab). Finally, we encourage you to spread the word, including via social media. We believe that a strong show of support, via an outpouring of signatures, will help shape the NHGRI plan to preserve the MOD features that are most important to our research enterprise.
Brant Weinstein & Mary Mullins
President & Vice President, IZFS
Many research discoveries rely on the accumulated wealth of genetic, genomic and cellular knowledge derived from model organisms. This knowledge is made accessible via the Model Organism Databases (MODs). NHGRI/NIH has recently advanced a plan in which the MODs will be integrated into a single combined database, along with a 30% reduction in funding for each MOD (see here for a report on early developments in this plan). While increased integration presents many advantages, the plan will result in a loss of critical organism-specific datasets. The funding cut will also cripple core functions like high quality literature curation and genome annotation, degrading the utility of the MODs. Given the large number of scientists this policy change would affect and the importance of their work, this issue is of extreme concern.
Leaders of several model organism communities, working with the Genetics Society of America (GSA), have come together to write a Statement of Support for the MODs, and to urge NIH to revise its proposal. We ask that you join GSA in this effort by signing the open letter for MOD support. The letter, along with all signatures, will be presented to NIH Director Francis Collins on July 14, 2016, during The Allied Genetics Conference.
Model Organism Community Leaders
David Bilder, President, FlyBoard
Andrew Chisholm, President, WormBoard
Teresa Gunn, President, International Mammalian Genetics Society
Mary Mullins, Vice-President, International Zebrafish Society
Scientific Society Leaders
Lynn Cooley, Vice-President, Genetics Society of America
Stan Fields, President, Genetics Society of America
Robb Krumlauf, President, Society for Developmental Biology
Peter Walter, President, American Society of Cell Biology
Bruce A. Beutler
Andrew Z. Fire
H. Robert Horvitz
Paul M. Nurse
Jack W. Szostak
Eric F. Wieschaus
National Academy Members and Others
Kathryn V. Anderson
Arthur L. Beaudet
Jef D. Boeke
James E. Haber
David M. Kingsley
Edison T. Liu
Barbara J. Meyer
Andrew W. Murray
Joseph S. Takahashi
James E. Womack