Peter Bogner’s Excellent Skiing Techniques and Killer Flu Database

Want to know how to ski better?

Talk to Peter Bogner. He demonstrates how in this video: Skiing Techniques (1985)

Want someone to organise a Yacht race?

Talk to Peter Bogner. He organised the Speed world challenge sailing 2003.

From a prestigious skiing dynasty and no less passionate about sailing, Peter Bogner the Chief Executive of the Bogner Organization brings his media experience and his management skills to the speed challenge. He says his strategies for sailing and running a business intersect at the point of using speed and state-of-the-art technologies to reinforce leadership.

Want access to H5N1 sequences? To pandemic H1N1 sequences?

Talk to Peter Bogner.

Huh? WTF!!!

That was my first reaction when I realised that a ski instructor/yacht racing organiser/media impresario would have control over the most significant nucleotide sequences in the world.

How did this happen? No-one seems to know.

When it was first announced, it was spun as some sort of good thing. Sequence data that had been kept secret in WHO vaults would be made publicly accessible. (See A nonscientist pushes sharing bird-flu data for more).

The thing is, if people really want to make sequences public, there is a simple way to do this: deposit them in GenBank. In every field of biology, with the glaring exception of influenza science, sequences are uploaded to GenBank and then made freely available to anyone who wants them with no pre-conditions whatsoever. This database is paid for by the US taxpayer via funding from the National Institutes of Health, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Want all the new H1N1 sequences deposited in GenBank? Here they are:

GenBank sequences from pandemic (H1N1) 2009 viruses

So, since there is already a publicly funded, completely accessible database for nucleotide sequences, why do we need a privately funded one for flu sequences? Hint: Because the data are not freely available. Instead, there are a number of preconditions attached to access. The contract you must agree to is more complex than the one I signed to buy my house. Some highlights: First, you must register by providing your name, address and other personal information. If Peter, the Ski Instructor, thinks you are OK, you will use a password and username to access the database. Every access of data will be monitored by Peter, the Ski Instructor. If you attempt to disclose the information to anyone else without gaining the permission of the person who submitted the sequence data, you lose access to the data. If Peter, the Ski Instructor, decides to cut you off at any time, then, no sequences for you!

These conditions greatly limit the utility of the data. If you want to analyse a large dataset, you need to get permission from all the many contributors. If you want to publish an idea that contradicts the hypothesis of one of the contributors, they may make it difficult for you. If you want to discuss your ideas with a colleague down the hall, you can’t. If you want to discuss an important result at a meeting, you may not be able to if you cannot get permission from all the sequence contributors in time.

This may surprise you, but it turns out that being a ski instructor is not the best preparation for building a nucleotide sequence database. So Peter, the Ski Instructor, contracted out the actual sciency part of the project to the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB). SIB and Peter the Ski Instructor recently had a dispute about ownership of the database. So, access to these critical sequences was interrupted….

IN THE MIDDLE OF A FRAKKING PANDEMIC!!!!!

Sorry, I get that way when buttheads endanger all of humanity due to extreme greed and stupidity.

To all the researchers who deposit your flu sequences in GISAID instead of GenBank, please, go buy a soul and have it inserted into your meat sack. Historians are going to record what you did. And if a lot of people die in this pandemic, a pretty good bet at this point, your wax image is going to be in the Bad Boys section of Madame Tussauds.

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3 thoughts on “Peter Bogner’s Excellent Skiing Techniques and Killer Flu Database

  1. Sir, we take notice that you were reluctant to sign this rather scathing piece with your real name.

    A message for gentlemen like you, David Lipman and Steven Salzberg who still haven’t figured out what GISAID has done for the flu data sharing, would be a simple one: “Just get over it!” It’s obvious you’ve been eclipsed by this guy, else you wouldn’t have bothered to use Google for your 5 minute research paper on skiing. The actual flu researchers, not you, finally got what they asked for: more flu data than ever and functionality tailored to their needs. And yes, some of us can even ski if time permits.

    While you’ve sat back in your cozy- air conditioned offices in Bethesda, Maryland spending US tax payer monies, this man traveled the globe on his own dime with the kind of credibility you could only dream off. Bottom line, he certainly got things done while you were busy blogging and complaining.

    There are no hurdles to climb when registering with GISAID. Besides, the process of verifying who the user says he is, is taken care off by the folks of the Max-Planck-Institute. It’s a transparent process. Certainly the few thousand users and pharma companies didn’t seem to have a problem with GISAID’s open-source sharing model when they identified themselves with their real names. It would seem they got nothing to hide.

    As for the public domain model you favor: Do you think for a minute that stripping the rights of data contributors and facilitating the misuse of data, by allowing it to be restricted by those with deeper pockets and the ability to file patents is the right way to keep lesser fortunate countries participate in sharing their data with others?

    Your mortgage lender you are referring to must no doubt be an “American” lending institution, judging by the collapse of the financial markets not long ago. Needless to say, it seems you have a lot to learn about transparency and what it takes to have countries share their information with the rest of the world.

    I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but I can’t help but notice that you would make an excellent contributor to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel.

    Sincerely, Hans Schmidt
    Zurich, Switzerland

  2. Herr Schmidt,

    I am not either Dr. Lipman or Dr. Salzberg. However, I have generated lots of sequences. Guess where I deposited them? GenBank.

    Yes, my blog is anonymous, and for good reason. I criticise powerful, wealthy people. They get really mad, sometimes.

    You seem to have missed the point of my blog. GISAID was not necessary. There is already a database in which people can deposit their sequences – GenBank. With the exception of flu scientists, every other researcher deposits their sequences there. GISAID is *not* transparent. I cannot access sequences, analyse them and post them here, can I? With GenBank, I can.

    We are in the middle of a public health emergency. Pandemic flu sequences should be deposited in GenBank as soon as they are generated. The politicians and scientists who refuse to do this are monsters, imo. The duty to release sequences critical to human health was debated among scientists years ago. This led to the “Bermuda Rules”

    Anyone interested in what ethical scientists decided to do with critical sequences under similar circumstances can go to the link below

    http://www.scienceonline.org/cgi/content/full/291/5507/1192

  3. this has nothing to do with skiing.
    I think there are good arguments of
    preferring genbank over GISAID,
    don’t make the mistake to focus on the founder’s
    other activities (IMO)

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