We agree that urgent research on SARS-CoV-2 sequence data is being slowed by antiquated regulations and those who put data ownership and priority over the common good (see Nature 590, 195–196; 2021).
In 2006, to address this problem for influenza research, stakeholders created the non-profit Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Database (GISAID). Data were to be released to the public International Nucleotide Sequence Database Consortium (INSDC) database after no more than six months (see P. Bogner et al. Nature 442, 981; 2006). Now expanded to include SARS-CoV-2, GISAID has maintained control of virus sequence data indefinitely, so researchers can’t work on the data until they agree to restrictive legal terms that are inconsistent with scientific norms.
We propose that GISAID data be released within a few weeks. This would give submitters time to establish priority on findings through preprint servers, which publish within 72 hours — not an option in 2006.
In just over a year, GISAID has aggregated more than 500,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes, enabling partner organizations such as Nextstrain to track in almost real time the virus’s attempts to circumvent human defences. This is unprecedented. Now, let’s make SARS-CoV-2 research even faster by working freely and openly to help address this enormous human tragedy.
Nature 591, 202 (2021)