I ask this as a key influence on my intellectual development–such as it is–is paleontology (some of my best friends are paleontologists…actually, that’s true). And in that discipline, specimens are key. Certainly, any material that is published is retained in almost all circumstances. But in microbial genomics, I’m not seeing this. As it stands, for many NIH-funded projects, only representative isolates are expected to be archived. That is, a subset of strains are stored, and the rest, well, who knows?
The problem is we don’t have a good (or any) idea which strains might be important to someone else years (or decades) from now. We will have many ‘disembodied’ genomes that we can’t do any follow up biology on. Needless to say, replication goes right out the window. To return to paleontology, it is humbling to realize how many discoveries were made decades after fossils were first brought to a museum. Once we destroy strains, they’re gone.
This will only get worse as sequencing moves into the clinic because hospitals already discard most of their isolates. I doubt they’ll start storing them now.