What’s the point of publishing a resource paper if the biomaterial isn’t openly shared
Cite as: Kamoun, S. (2022). What’s the point of publishing a resource paper if the biomaterial isn’t openly shared. Zenodo https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6227559
This has happened far more often than necessary. You read an interesting resource paper, write to the authors to request the biomaterial and then…nothing. Nada.
Well, a few weeks later, you may get lucky. You may receive a belated long-winded email from the Corresponding author apologizing for the very late reply, thanking you for your interest in the publication, and explaining in convoluted terms why the biomaterial cannot be readily shared. The explanations range from practical difficulties in distributing the material, limitations due to collaborators, and even complications due to commercial restrictions. To date, I have never received a reply explaining that the dog ate the resource. But when one day I’ll get that email, I will not be shocked.
From here on two things usually happen. There can be a request for collaboration around the use of the resource, of course as long as there is no overlap with the provider’s own interests etc. etc. In my book, when the resource is published such a request is questionable. What’s the point of publishing a resource paper if the biomaterial isn’t openly shared.
A second, much more pernicious follow-up — generally as a result of continued insistence on your part that the bioresource is published and therefore should be distributed — is when you end up receiving flawed or useless material. And who knows, perhaps the material has never existed as advertized. I’ve been in this business long enough to smell a rat when the authors aren’t forthcoming with sharing their published bioresources. This is why, I stopped bothering when the authors aren’t forthcoming with sending material. Sorry to say, they win. And I don’t want my lab to waste time with flawed material.
Many biological resources, even when targeting a specialist audience, are valuable to the community and deserve to be described in detail in a publication. But in the 2020s, there is absolutely no excuse why the material isn’t openly distributed. For example, plasmids can be deposited as an open science resource, through a repository such as AddGene — a non profit plasmid repository I admire and support. To date, we have deposited 496 plasmids in AddGene, and they have been distributed hundreds of times. I’m as proud of this as I’m of our publications.
Several academic institutions are waking up to open science and the necessity to help accelerate the research entreprise through rapid sharing of information and material. It’s also about being relevant in this age of accelerated biological research. If you’re not sharing material, you’re not influential.
To pick an example, the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAe) has now fully embraced the “science ouverte” revolution. With the launch of the Second National Plan for Open Science, INRAe now strongly expects its scientists to adhere to its principles. I sit on the Scientific Advisory Board of INRAe, and the discussions I have witnessed reveal a persistent reluctance from some researchers to embrace la science ouverte. How to influence reluctant academics remains a challenge.
But, when a resource is formally published, there is no excuse. A commitment to open science should be a pre-requisite for resource papers and whether or not the paper can be considered as an eligible publication in promotion packages. It is also ultimately necessary to ensure quality control of the bioresource. If it’s useful, others will use it and build on it. The only robust measure of impact is whether resources — just like scientific findings — stand the test of time.
Here is two examples of published bioresources from our lab.
Petit-Houdenot, Y., Langner, Y., Win, J., and Kamoun, S. 2020. A clone resource of Magnaporthe oryzae effectors that share sequence and structural similarities across host-specific lineages. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, https://doi.org/10.1094/MPMI-03-20-0052-A.
Harant, A., Pai, H., Sakai, T., Kamoun, S., and Adachi, H. 2021. A vector system for fast-forward studies of the HOPZ-ACTIVATED RESISTANCE1 (ZAR1) resistosome in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. Plant Physiology, kiab471, https://doi.org/10.1093/plphys/kiab471.