Crowdsourcing Biology

Biomedical science has traditionally been based on the incremental advances of autonomous research groups.  Knowledge sharing between researchers typically occurs through scientific publications, and the biomedical literature with over 20 million PubMed-indexed articles is particularly impressive.  However, due to the time scale of the peer-review and publication process, it often takes months or years for scientific findings to be disseminated to the community at large.

Following broader societal trends, the research community is now increasingly exploring “crowdsourcing” approaches that allow large communities of scientists to directly and collaboratively address challenges of massive scale.  This principle has been particularly important for addressing needs in our biomedical infrastructure, the foundation on which many scientific breakthroughs are based.

The Su Laboratory has been actively pursing crowdsourcing projects in biology for many years.  Our flagship projects include:

  • Gene Wiki: an initiative to create a continuously-updated, community-reviewed, and collaboratively-written review article for every human gene
  • BioGPS : a community-extensible gene annotation portal for aggregating and integrating gene-centric knowledge

We also have an emerging interest in games and citizen science as a mechanism for crowdsourcing that will make tasks like ontology-based gene annotation fun!  (No, seriously, its really going to be fun…)

Make sure you also check out our blog posts on crowdsourcing!


Good BM, Su AI. (2013) Crowdsourcing for Bioinformatics. Bioinformatics. 15;29(16):1925-33. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btt333 (PubMed)