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Arguments about access to published data reached a peak of intensity when the draft sequence of the human genome was published in February last year, and resurfaced in April this year, when the draft rice genome was published (see Scientists crack rice code).

The controversy centred around the fact that journals have published genome maps without requiring the authors to place the supporting sequence data in public databases.

In this opinion article, Ari Patrinos and Dan Drell of the US Department of Energy argue that policies on release of biological data should reflect reality, to the benefit of all.

They suggest a variety of ways forward and say that the academic community must open itself up to new approaches, "bereft of fundamentalism regarding access to [private sector] data that governments did not fund and cannot claim to own".

Reference: Nature 417, 589 (2002)

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