Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A wiki for genes

In an article published July 8 in PLoS Biology, a group of researchers describe their efforts to establish an OA "gene wiki" to collect information on the relationship and function of human genes. See also the description from the PLoS press release:
.. There is a lot of potential information about any given gene—its name, sequence, position on a chromosome, the protein(s) it encodes, other gene(s) it interacts with, etc. and presenting this information is referred to as 'gene annotation.' As information may come from many different researchers working independently, it is important that resources exist to collect the information together. Existing annotation libraries include Gene Portals and Model Organism Databases—however, the information stored in these is considered to be definitive, which requires constant updates by specific experts and formal presentation of information. The work reported in this week's PLoS Biology is intended to allow a much more flexible, organic accumulation of science, with all readers also able to edit and add to the Gene Wiki pages.

In order to stimulate the development of this Wikipedia based resource, Andrew Su and colleagues developed a system that automatically posts information from existing databases as 'stub' articles on Wikipedia. A computer program downloads information from one system, formats it according to Wiki formatting and the 'stub' template that the authors have designed, and—if a page does not already exist for that gene—posts the information on Wikipedia. The authors are confident that their stubs will seed the posting of more detailed information from scientists who encounter them on Wikipedia—and they report that, so far, they appear to be succeeding: the absolute number of edits on mammalian gene pages has doubled.