Networking Biology: The Origins of Sequence-Sharing Practices in Genomics


The wide sharing of biological data, especially nucleotide sequences, is now considered to be a key feature of genomics. Historians and sociologists have attempted to account for the rise of this sharing by pointing to precedents in model organism communities and in natural history. This article supplements these approaches by examining the role that electronic networking technologies played in generating the specific forms of sharing that emerged in genomics. The links between early computer users at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the 1960s, biologists using local computer networks in the 1970s, and GenBank in the 1980s, show how networking technologies carried particular practices of communication, circulation, and data distribution from computing into biology. In particular, networking practices helped to transform sequences themselves into objects that had value as a community resource.