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Mol Biol Cell. 2010 Jan 1;21(1):4-6. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E09-07-0575.

It's the data!

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  • Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. botstein@princeton.edu


Three articles from the early years of Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC) have had remarkably many citations in the literature since their publication approximately 10 years ago. As a coauthor of these articles and the former editor of MBoC, I was asked for possible explanations. I believe the answer lies in the unusual nature of these articles: each presents and summarizes gene expression data for nearly every gene in the yeast or human genomes. Continuing interest in the data themselves by cell biologists, rather than results or conclusions drawn by the authors, best accounts for the citation history. The flatness of the numbers of citations over time, the continuing high rate of accesses to individual Web sites set up to allow searching and display of the underlying data, and the large fraction of citations in journals focused on mathematics and computation all support the same conclusion: it's the data.

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