Genome Biology’s recent waltz around the 19th Annual Conference on Intelligent Systems in Molecular Biology (ISMB) in Vienna gave us a quickstep tour around the current developments in the computational biology community, including advances in the fields of personalized medicine and the genomic “data deluge”.
It also highlighted the acute awareness that computational biologists have of the importance of sharing data.
The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), who organized the conference, are stepping up and taking the lead when it comes to endorsing the free availability of data and open access to research—a theme that was heavily present among this year’s speakers. In a compelling announcement published last year, the society released the following public policy statement in support of open access:
“The International Society for computational Biology strongly advocates free, open, public, online (i) access by person or machine to the publicly funded archival scientific and technical research literature; and (ii) computational reuse, integration, and distillation of that literature into higher-order knowledge elements”
This ethos is fully endorsed by BioMed Central. All articles published with us have always been freely available to anyone wishing to access them, and all of our journals require that readily reproducible materials be freely available to any scientist wishing to use them for non-commercial purposes. For computational journals such as BMC Bioinformatics, we ensure that all software and data is made freely available, and we strongly encourage the deposition of all source code—the nuts and bolts of how an application works—as an additional file with every article.
Other journals within the BioMed Central portfolio are already striking up new initiatives to create more transparent access to open data, such as the recent launch of the “Availability of Supporting Data” section in BMC Research Notes. Similarly, some are tackling the problem of deposition of massive datasets for the post-genomic era, such as GigaScience (in collaboration with the BGI in China), one of our newly launched titles.
We also endorse all efforts to bring science to the wider community, especially where subscription costs may be prohibitive to knowledge access. BioMed Central’s initiatives to aid researchers in developing economies, and efforts to promote computational biology through the Open Access Africa program, should go some way to realising the ISCB’s aims to "empower citizens and scientists".
In his keynote speech to close the conference, the winner of this year’s “ISCB Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award”, Michael Ashburner, was characteristically clear. Addressing a crowded auditorium, the pioneering computational biologist stated that he was “absolutely committed to open source publishing”, urging young researchers to “try to do your research in an open way” because “if science is not public, then it is not science”.