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Survey about the future of the IWGSC

In May 2016, the IWGSC conducted an anonymous survey among its members (general members and Coordinating Committee members, a total of 885 members) to get their views about the future role the IWGSC could play after reaching its goal of delivering a high quality reference genome sequence for the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring, anticipated for early 2017.

High rate of respondents

The rate of reply was high, as 56% of the Coordinating Committee (CC) members and 14% of the general members took the time to answer to the 17 survey questions. Most member surveys have a reply rate below 10%.

85% of the general member respondents were users of IWGSC resources. Respondents from the Coordinating Committee were project leaders (65%), sponsors (17%), users (12%), and advisors (6%).

An annotated reference genome is highly anticipated

Asked about how they feel regarding the completion of the reference sequence, 60% of the IWGSC general members and 41% of the CC members are keen to have access to annotated full length gene sequences and 59% in both groups stated that the genome sequence would provide an important foundation for their future projects.

General members CC members

Even though 21% of the general members and 58% of the CC members think that the IWGSC has achieved a fantastic result and should be proud of its achievement, some comments suggest that work is still needed and that the job is not complete yet as “version 1 of reference genome will be far from [a] complete sequence”.

The IWGSC should coordinate the maintenance and update of the reference sequence

99% of the general members and 76% of the CC members indicated that it is of high importance that the reference genome should be maintained and updated to correct errors and improve annotation. “A robust and accurate annotation is extremely important for data mining and gene search. We do need an International reference genome annotation and then a network to improve this annotation based of new tools/knowledge.”

Asked about who should coordinate such effort, 97% of the members and 81 % of the CC consider that it should be done by the IWGSC. This is viewed as the logical continuation of the work of the IWGSC, as it has both the network and the expertise. “In my opinion, it will be easier for the same team to correct problems than any other group.”

52% of the members and 71% of the CC members are willing to participate to this process.

Chromosome survey sequence and gene annotation are the IWGSC resources most used

General members CC members

Genome browser, physical maps, BAC sequence data, and genetic marker data are also frequently mentioned.

The most popular databases are URGI and NCBI

URGI is the most popular database to access wheat genome resources, with 62% of the general members and 94% of the CC members using it. NCBI is also widely used (54 and 44%, respectively).

Both databases are also used to access transcriptomics data, with NCBI being most popular among general members (55% compared to 45% for URGI) and URGI among CC members (73% compared to 55% for NCBI).

A central database, improved and regularly updated, for wheat data is needed

Access to data is very easy or somewhat easy according to 59% and 61% of general and CC members, respectively. Nevertheless, for 32% and 39% of general and CC members, it is not easy to see what is available suggesting that some improvements are necessary.

General members CC members

Many comments suggested having a single point of entry for all wheat resources “just like that of Arabidopsis” or “like the maizeGDB”, with “easy bulk download in standardized formats and a “simple and easy interface”.

97% of the general members and 100% of the CC members think that the resources should be maintained and updated regularly as “any resource produced if not maintained and improved regularly will eventually end up being unusable”. Views diverge on what should be maintained, ranging from “raw reads” to “all the reference sequences and physical maps (MTP), and annotations”.

Ensembl Plants is mentioned by some members as a possible centralized platform.

Post reference genome projects should be coordinated by the IWGSC

Both general and CC members think that several post reference sequence projects would benefit from the leadership and coordination of the IWGSC, such as:

  • Community based manual curation and annotation of the bread wheat genome
  • Database for the wheat genome sequence and linkage with other wheat resources
  • De novo sequencing and assembly of multiple wheat genomes
  • Functional annotation of the wheat genome
General members CC members

Asked about the value the IWGSC could add to these projects, most respondents mention that the IWGSC could coordinate the efforts in order to provide “uniformity on the available data and a single entry” and avoid redundancy.

50% of the general members and 83% of the CC members are willing to play a role in this process as project leader (74% and 75% respectively), sponsor of specific activity (26% and 21% respectively) or sponsor of the coordination activities (5% and 13% respectively).

Current sponsors of the IWGSC indicated that they were willing to sponsor coordination activities (43% of them) and/or specific activities (71% of them).

The IWGSC should become a coordinator of wheat genomics activities

Concerning the future role the IWGSC, coordination and leadership are the most widely used words in the suggestions.

A few selected comments:

  • “IWGSC can still function as a coordinator and association of researchers of the wheat genomics area, so that it can coordinate, communicate the wheat genomics research around the world, including updating wheat genome sequence quality, correcting errors, developing new methods for genomic sequencing for wheat, and establishing as a portal of wheat genomics studies.”
  • “Continue the coordination for the development of additional useful tools such as different wheat genome sequences, RNASeq data, epigenetic landscape related to changing environment, update of the corrections of the actual sequence, genome editing for variant production.”
  • “The main role of the IWGSC could be maintaining the high standards for acquired data, coordination selection of the most important research topics, and very importantly the fund raising support.”

IWGSC is a good name

Changing the name is not seen as necessary by 72% and 60% of the general and CC members, respectively.

If the name were to be changed, suggestions for new names included:

  • International Wheat GenomicS Consortium
  • International Wheat Genome Consortium
  • International Wheat Genome Sciences Consortium