Your Special Report “Internet encyclopaedias go head to head” (Nature 438, 900–901; 2005) shows that Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries.

As a frequent user of Wikipedia and also a biologist, I hope that one day a wiki on gene function will be voluntarily created and maintained by biologists.

After a microarray experiment or a BLAST search, hundreds or thousands of interesting gene names are revealed, but the average biologist has no clue as to the function of most of them. Following up with a literature search wastes a lot of researchers' time and energy.

A wiki on gene function would make life very much easier for biologists. Such a wiki would also be less susceptible to spam, as most users would be biologists. It would also be more accurate, as long as statements are accompanied by references.

Several gene-function databases already exist, but each has certain disadvantages for the average biologist.

The Entrez Gene database ( contains a Gene Reference Into Function, or GeneRIF, that allows users to submit statements with supporting literature references to annotate gene function. But although many short statements have accumulated in this database, it would be useful to have concise summaries compiled by experts, and these are not usually available.

The Molecule Pages for signalling proteins ( and the OMIM database for human inherited diseases ( both rely heavily on community input, but are both limited to special-interest groups.

The UniProt Knowledge Base ( provides an integrated view of gene functions. But the information is collected from highly heterogeneous experimental and computational data sources, so the annotations often lack confidence measures.

In addition, the entries in these gene-function databases — unlike those in Wikipedia — cannot be conveniently commented on or edited by average biologists. This discourages input from many potential contributors. Concise and accurate gene-function annotations compiled and edited by human experts are preferable in many cases.

A wiki on gene function, which utilizes the collective brain power of biologists around the world, would be an invaluable tool for biological sciences.