One comment

  1. The comic reads like the article it summarizes was written by a physicist, as physics is a very theory-driven field with expensive experiments. The huge numbers of “junior scientists” gathering data at places like CERN fits the description well.

    The analogy to -omics data is not so good though, as biology has been really driven for the past couple of decades by discovery from large data sets. Biology does not have the powerful theory that physics has and relies on a lot of data to discover idiosyncratic mechanisms. The -omics data is relatively cheap to collect (when done at scale) and enables a lot of hypothesis generation by “junior scientists” (PhD students in computational biology). The expensive part these days is wet-lab testing of the generated hypotheses, because that is still mainly boutique lab work by hordes of molecular biology students.

    Automation has made raw data in biology fairly cheap and even synthesis of the data into a usable form is getting cheap.The cost of storing the raw data with appropriate backups for a few years now often exceeds the cost of generating it.

    I heard an estimate that a high-quality telomere-to-telomere human genome now costs about $10k to produce, even though the first complete telomere-to-telomere genome only came out last year (only this year for the Y chromosome). If you don’t care about centromeres and telomeres, a human genome costs well less than $1k (retail price for 100× sequencing and variant calling is about $1200, and produces over 300GB of data files).

    Modern biology needs both the large data sets (to generate the hypotheses) and hypothesis-driven lab work—neither alone is sufficient.

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