Curation and care: Maintaining community collections in Drosophila genetics

Speaker: Jenny Bangham # University of Cambridge

4th Feb 2019

15:30 - 17:00

CMB Staff Room (6th Floor)

Genetic research depends on community collections of data and of living organisms. This paper analyses the curation of such collections, taking as its focus the history of fruit fly (Drosophila) genetics. Since the 1930s, Drosophila geneticists have made use of ‘stock centres’—institutions devoted to collecting, caring for and distributing living fruit flies for scientific research. From the 1940s, researchers depended on book-length ‘mutant catalogues’—publications that systematically listed all known information about Drosophila mutants. During the 1990s, these resources were linked through the new technology of ‘FlyBase’, an online database that used (and uses) networking protocols to make available cross-referenced tables of gene mutants, bibliographies, laboratory address lists, and resources for obtaining living mutants. What can be gained by thinking about these resources as collections? How were these community tools built up? What do scientists gain—and give up—when they choose to make such resources? Who cares for the collections? How do their custodians keep these collections valuable and accessible to their scientist users?

Jenny Bangham is a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge