We need more online databases.

If you are a graduate student or postdoc and are wondering how you might make a significant contribution, I recommend assembling an online database to be made freely available. In particular, a database of chromosome numbers for animals would be very useful, and I don’t mind if you start out with the limited sampling of karyotype information that I have included in the Animal Genome Size Database. Why not start with, oh I don’t know, butterflies, and then let me see the dataset once you have it compiled? Anytime in the next week or so would be great. Not that I am trying to do a comparison of chromosome numbers in butterflies or anything.

9 thoughts on “We need more online databases.

  1. Any hints on what is an easy way to do this? Without, like, having a hired database programmer?

    I’ve often thought that wiki software could be easily modified (to make the entries a little more “constrained”) to make a very easy-to-use, multiple-users-inputting-data database. This would be useful for any number of things.

  2. I’ve never thought about doing it as a wiki, but that seems like a good idea. As long as people provide references, it should be quite doable. Might need to have it password restricted though — someone will undoubtedly find it funny to change or invent data.

    Worth thinking about, anyhow.

  3. I don’t know about a database, but I can put up somewhere a simple list of known chromosome numbers for butterflies. Would this work?

  4. What about a scratchpad? You can set up custom content types and it provides the ability edit records in a distributed way similar to a wiki. They use an excellent content management system called Drupal which has the sense behind it to create database tables for each of the defined content types, and even does normalisation of shared fields for you.

  5. Why a chromosome number database? That doesn’t seem like very worthwhile information on its own. While genome size (in bp or nanograms) is comparable across taxa, chromosome number is pretty meaningless once you move from one taxon to another. It’s interesting to compare chromosome numbers between closely related species (ie, mammals, Drosophila, etc) to infer fusions and other large scale genomic changes, but comparing divergent taxa (ie, mammals with Drosophila) doesn’t really tell you much.

  6. What a curious comment. Karyotypes have been of interest for well over a century. Comparisons within groups, which can be very useful, are not possible unless all data are available. No one is looking to compare across phyla. And not everyone works on Drosophila.

  7. I guess what I’m saying is that a chromosome number database is only useful if you have a lot of data from a bunch of closely related species. If you’re counting chromosomes in one species of spider, a species of fly, a species of mouse, and an evergreen, you won’t be able to make meaningful comparisons.

    And not everyone works on Drosophila.

    I think you identified the problem right there!

  8. Although it’s not the database you are looking for, there are some cool databases available online.
    I’d like to point you towards a great project called BioNumbers.

    I wrote about it some time back in my blog when it wasn’t online and accessible to all. Not it is, here.

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