Obituaries for bioinformatics tools. No, really. We’re doing it.
This is a topic that’s come up more than once in groups I’ve been associated with. A resource we used to like to use–or link to–has become unavailable or seems dead. So you look for answers–trying to contact them and see if it’s just as simple as their server being down. This has happened several times as we searched for tools–we have pinged the team responsible and they’ve rebooted for us. Sometimes they aren’t aware that it has gone down.
Other times you can’t get anyone to answer at all. Have they moved? Is this the wrong email address from their last paper? What can you do at this point?
You can post to help forums like BioStar, and I’ve seen this happen too. And then a bunch of people try the steps I mentioned above. You might be able to find someone with knowledge of the project though–so that can work.
But the best idea I’ve heard in a long time was to create obituaries for tools and resources that have become unavailable. Jeremy Leipzig wrote this some time ago:
One solution could be a obituary section to the web server issue, where sites are deemed dead, stale, or merely irrelevant by a panel of experts. Then corresponding authors could then indicate if they abandoned ship because of laziness, guilt, or simply out of spite.
Heh. I wonder how many will admit to spite. But the idea continued to be appealing to me–because I have wasted days looking for some tool that’s moved or dead. People ask us to help, and we try to find out. But it’s not always clear what’s happened.
So I decided to start a post on BioStars that could capture that information. At least that way people could Google for some information and possible not have to spend days in the loop of looking around. And today I needed to add a resource that we didn’t realize was gone–GENSAT.
This was also noticed by Francis Ouellette–who might be able to help us get something more formal into NAR. He replied over there at the forum. Check out the idea and the discussion:
If you find a resource that’s unavailable any more, help us out by adding it to the collection. Or if you want just let me know here and I can post it over there. Provide as much detail as you can. Thanks! Oh, and I’m sorry for your loss…