FlyBase Revisited: Ensuring Data Access

Figure 1. The FlyBase website provides powerful search capabilities across fruit fly linked-data. Their current plight, due to reduction in funding, highlights the issue of how to ensure data access.

Yesterday while reading the new research paper on the fully imaged female fruit fly brain (see Largest Brain Comprehensively Imaged at Nanoscale Resolution), I thought back to blog posts I wrote about seven years ago on fruit fly online data repositories, ontologies, and atlases (see “Related blog posts” below).

The FlyBase Consortium has been a pioneering organization behind FlyBase and the Virtual Fly Brain; a linked-data repository and visual atlas respectively. They provide a powerful toolset to use with the complete set of fruit fly brain images taken at electron microscope resolution recently released to the public domain. And, in fact, the new data appear to be getting incorporated into release 2 of the Virtual Fly Brain (now in beta testing).

Possibilities were bubbling in my mind as I loaded FlyBase. Bubbles froze in mid-mind as my retina relayed the image above (Figure 1) to my cortex. Tools and data repositories we love and depend on may, at any time, become difficult to access or disappear entirely. Any number of factors may be behind restrictions or shutdowns including loss of funding, the retirement of a repository advocate, or a government deciding they should be proprietary.

The people at FlyBase clearly had no alternative but to turn to fee-based access to keep their service online. Our global scientific community should seek a solution that eliminates the need to face this choice and ensures global access to foundational tools and data. Science is a global effort. Scientific data should be included, along with scientific knowledge, in the commons for all humanity.

Related blog posts:

Largest Brain Comprehensively Imaged at Nanoscale Resolution (July 28, 2018).

A Virtual Fly Brain (April 16, 2011).

Viewing the Fly Brain Connectome with Brainbow (February 11, 2011).

How the Brain Works, Flies, and the FlyBase Online Data Repository (November 4, 2010).