Data issues in the life sciences

Zookeys. 2011;(150):15-51. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.150.1766. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Abstract

We review technical and sociological issues facing the Life Sciences as they transform into more data-centric disciplines - the "Big New Biology". Three major challenges are: 1) lack of comprehensive standards; 2) lack of incentives for individual scientists to share data; 3) lack of appropriate infrastructure and support. Technological advances with standards, bandwidth, distributed computing, exemplar successes, and a strong presence in the emerging world of Linked Open Data are sufficient to conclude that technical issues will be overcome in the foreseeable future. While motivated to have a shared open infrastructure and data pool, and pressured by funding agencies in move in this direction, the sociological issues determine progress. Major sociological issues include our lack of understanding of the heterogeneous data cultures within Life Sciences, and the impediments to progress include a lack of incentives to build appropriate infrastructures into projects and institutions or to encourage scientists to make data openly available.

Keywords: data issues; escience; incentives; informatics; life science; standards.