The Journal of Cell Biology has launched an application that is intended to transform the way researchers can store, share and access the growing number of microscopy images. (See E. Hill, J. Cell Biol. 183, 969–970; 2008). The service is described in a Nature online news story on 19 December 2008.
Cell and molecular biology laboratories routinely produce image files in a wide variety of formats, and researchers often keep images on their own hard drives. The new JCB DataViewer, supported by the University of Rockefeller Press, publisher of the journal, is a database into which all authors of papers published by the Journal of Cell Biology have to submit their raw images — which can amount to a terabyte or more of data. The software then allows others to retrieve and manipulate the data through a web browser. As well as the ability of the system to store these huge datasets, the hope is that the JCB DataViewer will help peer reviewers and others in the community judge the quality of the work.
From the Nature news story: “It’s transparency and integrity,” says Jason Swedlow, a microscopy specialist at the University of Dundee, UK, who led much of the technical development. “It is going to allow you to see that data and judge it for yourself.” The journal’s editors hope that "eventually a version of this database could become a central repository for image data from the worldwide research community — something like a microscopy version of Genbank, a database in which vast amounts of genetic-sequence data are shared and stored. In future, research funding agencies and journals might require that authors submit their microscopy data to such a repository, just as most require submissions of DNA sequences to Genbank or other similar banks. “There have been murmurings about wanting data to be kept and maintained somewhere but no one has mandated it yet,” Hill says."