Week in Review: September 1–5

Ebola outbreak updates; retraction of a brain genetics paper; ALS experts discuss how funds raised through the #IceBucketChallenge should be spent; a first-time buyer’s guide to bioinformatics software

Tracy Vence
Sep 5, 2014

Statistical flaws prompt retraction

WIKIMEDIAIn June, when The Scientist first contacted University of British Columbia’s Paul Pavlidis for comment on a PNAS paper in which he was not involved, he expressed concerns regarding the statistical approach applied in the study, which purported to identify sets of genes associated with altered communication between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. Once the paper was published, Pavlidis reached out to the authors—Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg from Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Germany, and this colleagues—to discuss his concerns. Upon reanalyzing their data, the authors decided “we had to retract,” Meyer-Lindenberg told The Scientist, because “the analysis could not be used to make any conclusions with the required statistical confidence.”

Their retraction was published in PNAS last week (August 29). The researchers are now further reanalyzing their data.

How to spend $100 million for ALS

WIKIMEDIA, KIM QUINTANOIf you’ve scrolled through your...

“With that money comes tremendous responsibility,” ALSA spokesperson Carrie Munk told The Scientist.

“Most research doesn’t go for only two years,” added Jeff Rothstein of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research. “So any program that invests money has to be cognizant [of that]. . . . When that money [runs] out, what happens?”

Bioinformatics software guide for first-time buyers

NHGRIIn an opinion article adapted from a Briefings in Bioinformatics paper published this week (September 2), David Roy Smith from the University of Western Ontario presented a first-time buyer’s guide to commercial bioinformatics software. He shared his experiences shopping around, comparing the specifications and prices of different packages, while contemplating floating licenses, plugins and apps, cloud computing, upgrades, and support.

“You may find that these programs streamline your research and invigorate your classroom, or that they’re a waste of time and you’re better off using open-source alternatives,” Smith wrote. “Wherever you stand on the topic, I urge you to share your opinions and experiences with others.”

Other news in life science:

UN Calls for $600M in Aid to Stop Ebola
The United Nations and medical organizations request additional international action on Ebola as the pace of the ongoing epidemic accelerates.

Funds To Speed Ebola Drug Development
A $42 million US government contract awarded to an experimental Ebola medicine maker aims to accelerate the process of meeting demand for the therapeutic.

Experimental Ebola Drug Shows Promise
ZMapp effectively rescued macaques from Ebola in a small trial, but it could be several months before supplies of the drug meet the growing human demand for it.

NIH To Speed Ebola Vax Trials
The ongoing Ebola outbreak has prompted the National Institutes of Health to accelerate human trials of multiple Ebola vaccines, starting this week.

Losing Languages
Biological criteria and evolutionary models help predict threats to spoken language, according to two studies.

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