Ready for another week of scientific progress? Here are my top three science stories that caught my interest after ten minutes of googling which in pre-internet days would equate to two days spent trawling through various newspapers, magazines and journals.
Craig Venter is in the headlines again
Just a few weeks after announcing the ‘minimal viable genome’(http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2016/03/28/the-smallest-viable-genome-is-very-weird), he is now partnering with British pharmaceutical Giant Astra-Zeneca to sequence 2 million genomes (http://www.nature.com/news/astrazeneca-launches-project-to-sequence-2-million-genomes-1.19797) in an attempt to find gene variants linked to rare diseases. Seeing as Venter’s Human Longevity will be driving the sequencing initiative, expect all the data to remain behind a paywall. They ultimately aim to sequence 10 million genomes and are already 0.26% of the way there having sequenced 26,000 genomes. Venter claims his company can already predict physiological features such as height, weight, eye colour, hair colour and what your face looks like just by analysing the genome. Say what you will about Venters’ work and claims, but he truly is a giant in 21st Century Science.
BioBento starts production on their cool new product
Here’s a story from the ever growing DIY molecular biology community. BioBento(https://www.bento.bio/), a London based start up founded by a few intrepid PhD students, successfully funded their initial kickstarter this week, tripling their initial £50,000 funding goal and netting £152,415. These funds will allow them to start mass production of their Bio Lab kit (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/339005690/bento-lab-a-dna-laboratory-for-everybody). The Bio lab is a compact kit that allows anyone to extract DNA from a tissue sample, copy the DNA through PCR and visualise the DNA with a simple electrophoresis gel kit. It should be a big hit in secondary schools which will allow students to get some first hand experience in basic molecular biology. (full disclosure, the author contributed £19 to their Kickstarter campaign).
Science is rubbish
This week, Elisabeth Bik (Stamford University), Arturo Casadevall (John’s Hopkin’s) and Ferric Fang (University of Washington School of Medicine) pre-published a report in BioRxiV claiming that 3.8% of the 20,621 biomedical research papers they reviewed had duplicated images (http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/04/20/049452). Furthermore they claim half of those duplicate images exhibit ‘features suggestive of deliberate manipulation’. The story maybe isn’t revelatory as the scientific method has taken a beating recently with concerns regarding re-reducibility, positive-results bias, and poor handling of statistics in biological research reaching the public ear. What is arguably more interesting is that this is the first time I’ve seen bioRxiV linked in a news story. Pre-print servers have been in use in mathematics and physics for quite some time now, however in the biological field there is resistance to make data available prior to publication, usually due to concerns regarding claiming primacy in scientific discovery. What is great about bioRxiV is that it allows for public discussion of a paper before it is submitted to a journal for print. Other tools are also out there for these kinds of discussions, pubpeer.com is a forum for post-publication discussion, and let’s not forget the newly launched journal ‘matter’s (sciencematters.io) which allows researchers to publish individual observations (n=3 of course) without having to put out a complete story. This allows people to claim their discoveries as they make them while allowing the scientific community to build upon these discoveries rather than waiting the years that it currently takes to get a full paper out.
That’s my week of Science. Hope you enjoyed it.
Written by: Tokuwa Kanno