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Gene Pools and Web Tools
The Human Genome Project, which has been called the first Big Science project in biology, has as its 15-year objective the complete determination of the human genetic code -- the sequencing of the estimated 3 billion base pairs in human DNA. The Human Genome Project has often been compared to World War II's Manhattan Project in its ambition and scope. Yet, unlike the Manhattan Project, which gathered together and sequestered the country's best physicists and mathematicians in an isolated, pressure-cooker environment until they produced the desired results, the Human Genome Project is almost completely decentralized. The funding agencies have doled out tiny pieces of the action to scores of research teams scattered all around the world.
In spite of this decentralization, which you might naturally suspect would be a barrier to effective collaboration and lead to fragmented, duplicated efforts, the Human Genome Project is ahead of schedule and under budget. How is this possible? The data generated by each research team is electronically submitted over the Internet to one of many specialized databases, depending on its nature. There are relational databases for gene mapping, gene sequences, protein sequences, gene linkages, genetic probes, genetic diseases, individual chromosomes, and so on. The data is then linked to related data in the same and other databases, and made available almost immediately to the entire genome research community via Web servers that are universally accessible on the Internet.
It's one of life's stunning coincidences that the World Wide Web emerged from the high-energy physics research community just in time to help make the Human Genome Project feasible. And it's another astonishing twist of fate that a pathologist-turned-genome scientist at MIT, Lincoln Stein, has given back to the computing community what is without a doubt the most lucid, comprehensive, and authoritative book on the creation and maintenance of industrial-strength websites.
Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research back when Marc Andreeson was still a graduate student getting paid minimum wage. As he scaled up and enhanced the site over the subsequent years, he investigated and thoroughly mastered every detail of UNIX, HTML, CGI, Perl, server clustering, database interfaces, and other arcane topics too numerous to mention. This wealth of practical experience, coupled with an unerring instinct for the crucial detail and a formidable talent for technical writing, makes Stein's book essentially unique.