We live in an age where free, public access to biological data is accepted as the norm and that is a good thing. However, few of us give much thought as the costs and infrastructure required to maintain these services. There are many issues here, not least of which is data provision from non-professional and potentially ephemeral sources – such as postdocs at universities. The Web is a funny place – once you find a favourite site you tend to assume that it has always existed and will continue to do so, but 20 years ago there was no NCBI – who knows what we’ll have in 20 years time?
Our black box mentality means that we think of the Web and websites as entities in their own right. Let’s not forget that behind every site there’s just software and hardware – and to vanish in an
instant, all that needs to happen is for someone to pull the plug.