Meeting report

Structural genomics taskforce on publication

The first meeting of the Int’l Structural Genomics Organization (ISGO), held in Berlin last October afforded the opportunity for the various taskforces working to coordinate international efforts in structural genomics to report to the wider structural biology community. The Taskforce on Publication, chaired by G. Dodson, had earlier reached the conclusion that publication of the results of structural genomics projects in peer-reviewed articles was highly desirable. This was despite the rational criticism that augmented deposition in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) would obviate the need for 'traditional' publication. The taskforce reasoned that publication added value and provided the opportunity for interpretation of the structural results including speculation on the mechanism, function and biological role of the target protein. Such publications will bring important research and professional benefits, particularly to young scientists. Rapid and easy publication of a large number of structures, expected to result from both structural genomics and other high throughput projects, will require the type of close liaison with the PDB that currently exists between the small molecule crystallography community and the Cambridge Structural Database. In the case of proteins, however, deposition of the atomic parameters and the experimental amplitudes and associated phase information in the PDB will be the primary event. The PDB will require additional information from the depositor to describe the experiment fully from cloning and expression of the protein to refinement of the structure. The Editors of Acta Crystallographica D are currently working with the PDB to facilitate the transfer of the deposited data to the journal in a seamless, machine readable form. In addition a depositor to the PDB will receive a validation report on their structure, which they can submit with the manuscript to the journal of their choice for viewing by selected referees. This will ensure that the referees have access to information they require to validate the structure quickly and thus speed-up one of the rate limiting steps in the publication process. Several journals including Acta Crystallographica D, the Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics and Proteins, Structure, Function and Genetics have indicated that they will publish the results of structural genomics efforts and will welcome approaches from interested laboratories. Most of these journals either plan or already publish structural genomics papers electronically. There is still resistance in the wider scientific community to electronic-only publication, but the taskforce considers that it is ideally suited to rapid communication of high throughput structural biology results, software and techniques. It is fair to say that to date there has not been a flood of papers, but given the rate at which the various structural genomics projects are reaching the production phase the expected avalanche of structures and papers, will not be too far in the distance. Journal publishers, by nature a conservative group, have to formulate business plans to cope with prospective changes in demand which has yet to materialize.

J. Mitchell Guss and Guy Dodson