To kick start genomic analyses of the pathogen and host, we took the unconventional step of rapidly generating and releasing genomic sequence data. We released the data through our new ash and ash dieback website, oadb.tsl.ac.uk, which we launched in December 2012. Speed is essential in responses to rapidly appearing and threatening diseases and with this initiative we aim to make it possible for experts from around the world to access the data and analyse it immediately, speeding up the process of discovery. We hope that by providing data as soon as possible we will stimulate crowdsourcing and open community engagement to tackle this devastating pathogen.

We have generated and released Illumina sequence data of both the transcriptome and genome of Chalara and the transcriptome of infected and uninfected ash trees. We took the unusual first step of directly sequencing the “interaction transcriptome” [2] of a lesion dissected from an infected ash twig collected in the field. This enabled us to respond quickly, generating useful information without time-consuming standard laboratory culturing; the shortest route from the wood to the sequencer to the compute

Most importantly, crowdsourcing allows for a new form of potentially effective live peer-review, many sets of eyes interrogating and reviewing data and analyses mean that unusual results are quickly highlighted and can be assessed and dealt with appropriately. Whether they are eventually found to be inconsistencies in analysis or more exciting genuine new discoveries, the end product is brought to the scientific community many times faster than the usual peer-review by a small number of reviewers and crucially it all happens out in the open with maximum transparency. The cornerstone of our crowdsourcing is our repository on GitHub [4], a versioning system designed for collaboration in software development that automatically maintains attribution of contribution, meaning that whoever contributes will get full credit for the difference that they made. We are certain that the data will prove useful to anyone who wishes to be involved in the fightback against ash dieback and that concerted, early data-sharing and open analysis is a crucial step in a productive and timely response to emergent pathogen threats.

Our initiative is an early step towards developing the crucial function of the digital immune system for response to plant pathogens; the thing we cannot upload to a repository is the people with the expertise and the will to contribute, and that is why we need the scientific community to download our data and provide analyses.

http://www.gigasciencejournal.com/content/2/1/2

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