By the 1990's, that was routine and you needed much more to get a paper published. The genome era had begun and a good paper in a high impact journal required the complete sequence of an entire genome.
Today, you can't get a genome sequence published because it's so easy that undergraduates can do it.
David Smith of Western University (London, Ontario, Canada) laments the death of the genome paper while recognizing that sequencing has probably been abused (Smith, 2013). He makes some good points ...
One of the drawbacks of genome papers, however, is that they can create a mindset of sequence first, ask questions later. I once attended a Masters thesis defense where the external examiner asked the candidate why he sequenced the chloroplast genome of this particular species and what hypothesis was he trying to test. The student, looking startled, answered, "Because the genome hadn't been sequenced before and we didn't know what it looked like." After the defense, I overheard the examiner in the hallway venting to another professor. "We've created a culture of serial genomicists," she exclaimed. "Everyone's jumping from one genome sequence to the next, looking to score a major publication."I still like to read genome papers but lately I've been put off by the lack of reliable information in most of those papers. One of things I'm interested in is the number genes, especially the number of unique genes. Unfortunately, the annotation usually relies on computer-generated gene predictions and those are notoriously unreliable.
Regardless of this opinion, genome papers have provided much of the raw data that have shaped our view of genetics and evolution over the past 20 years. And they can also be a joy to read. Many of my favorite journal articles are genome papers. I remember, when I was a grad student in phycology, eagerly awaiting publication of the genome for Chlamydomonas—the superstar of green algae—and reading it incessantly once it was released, gleaning new insights each time through. There is something intimate and personal in learning about a species' genome. And similarly, if you are part of the team describing the genome, there is a feeling that you're giving the readers a first glimpse at an uncharted territory, with its unique landscape of genes, introns and intergenic regions.
But all of this may be coming to an end. Next generation DNA sequencing techniques have made it easy, fast and cheap to sequence genomes. Today, just about any scientist can walk out their laboratory doors, point to a living thing and say, “I will sequence you!” High-throughput technologies have flooded the academic market with genome papers. And the top journals have responded by only accepting papers describing the most novel, earth-shattering genomes. The less spectacular genomes, much like B-movies, go directly to video, or rather directly to GenBank. This sequencing-vs-publishing arms race has been going on for a long time.
Is it time to write the genome paper obituary? Maybe not quite yet. Every now and then they still claw their way into top journals. But the end is not far off, and when it does come, I'm sure that I speak for all of us genome geeks when I say, "Farewell, GP. It was fun while it lasted."
Smith, D.R. (2013) Death of the genome paper. Frontiers in Genetics 4:1-2. [doi: 10.3389/fgene.2013.00072]