Iterating science, supercharged

By Razib Khan | November 20, 2012 7:17 pm

Science is about “updating” with new information. But people are attached to their propositions, and shifts in paradigms can take a very long time, often dependent more on human lifespans than the constellation of the data. But please see this post by Luke Jostins’ over at Genomes Unzipped. He has “updated” his own view of his recent Nature paper on inflammatory bowel disease. This is rather awesome, because yes, there was some talk about the balancing selection aspect of the paper at ASHG, and now Luke has gone and amended his own position.

The reality is that emotions are a big deal in science. But in theory we simply look at the evidence. Bridging that gap, and shifting the balance to the latter, is very important in keeping the enterprise honest, fruitful, and attractive to young scholars. I’m hoping that the more rapid dissemination of information via projects like Haldane’s Sieve will aid in the rate of iteration.


Comments (2)

  1. Re: the emotional aspect – I don’t think the emotional pressure to hold fast to my interpretation really applied here. The people who raised concerns about the selection analysis were people who I respected and value the opinion (and, TBH, the approval) of. Additionally, they were also people I knew personally and liked, and thus it did not feel like a personal attack. The emotional pressure here, if anything, was to go back and reassess.

    However, if the attacks had been on a different aspect (say the association results themselves), and had come from people I didn’t know, didn’t value the opinions of and felt threatened by professionally, I could easily see myself going to the wall on this.

  2. #1, good points. i do the think the public transparency of the process is a boon. though it would have been relevant if you didn’t know the people personally.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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