Are Researchers Accumulating Oceans of Data for no Clear Purpose?

Are Researchers Accumulating Oceans of Data for no Clear Purpose?

Special announcement:

[Titus Brown inspired Kyle McLean, a graduate student in molecular biology, to start writing his blog. Please visit the hundredth monkey. We are creating a sidebar blogroll to place new bloggers and name it after Titus.]


A commentary written by philosopher Mark Sagoff is making the rounds in twitter among NGS bioinformaticians (and ‘bioinformationists’, a word coined by Sagoff). It starts provocatively with -

Because the cost of genetic sequencing has declined so much, researchers are accumulating oceans of data for no clear purpose. The assumption is that something in the data will stimulate important questions, but this is not an effective way to conduct scientific research.

Major points:

1. Huge amounts of data are being generated by all branches of science (astrophysics, nuclear physics, etc.), but the situation is worst in biology with terabytes of sequence data being accumulated for no good reason.

_[Our comment: The purpose is to continue Keynesian spending until aliens invade us.] _

2. Data deluge is making traditional way of hypothesis-based science obsolete.

3. Titus Brown said: Its not at all clear what you do with that data.

[Our comment: Reading of remaining commentary makes us think that his comment was taken out of context.]

4. Although biologists may be uncertain how to respond to the data tsunami, they agree about its cause.

[Our comment: It is hilarious that they all identify the wrong cause - dropping cost of sequencing. The real cost of data deluge is central planning gone wrong. Over the last 10 years, US government had been over-investing in sequencing technologies with the cute motto ‘human genome below $1000’, but under-investing in analysis, storage and hundred other downstream processes. In a non-centrally planned economy, data deluge would not have been a problem. ]

5. “The cost of storage, maintenance, and transfer, however, forms a bottleneck that keeps data from potential users.”

[Our comment: If central planning worked, we would all be speaking Russian today.]

Rest of the article explains in great length that human microbiome project (HMP) is not a great way to waste taxpayers’ money and genome wide association study (GWAS) would have been better. Overall it reads like a sophisticated lobbying piece. Who is behind it? Who gains from the cancellation of HMP (other than the bankers and military)? Whether we find out or not, we expect many more similar hit pieces in future as US government continues to cut science funding to pay off its debt and voracious military. We wonder how many such pieces are accumulated purposefully in Dr. Sagoff’s notebook (see below).

Written by M. //