In their thoughtful and welcome Commentary on data access “The times they are a-changin'” (Nature 417, 589–590; 2002), Ari Patrinos and Dan Drell make two statements about Science's publication policy that require correction.
With respect to the arrangement that allowed Celera Genomics to provide its sequence data through its own website, Patrinos and Drell say that the company limited free access to one million base pairs per day. In fact, Celera announced on its website that it would provide, and it did provide, compact discs containing the entire sequence to those who asked.
Patrinos and Drell also say that “those in the private sector have to negotiate a fee as a prerequisite for access”. That is simply wrong — commercial accessors could and did receive the sequence free on executing a material transfer agreement that committed them not to distribute it or to use it for new research projects. That arrangement, incidentally, followed criticisms from members of the publicly funded Human Genome Project that any arrangement that required commercial accessors to pay would constitute “discriminatory licensing”. The agreement we at Science reached with Celera circumvented that objection, thus meeting the challenge aptly described by Patrinos and Drell: “to suggest how the private sector can be persuaded to share more data, to the benefit of all”.