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Epigenetic: The Imprinter Of All Maladies

Epigenetics is everywhere. Nary a day goes by without some news story or press release...

PubMed Commons: Post-Publication Peer Review Goes Mainstream

I have written a lot about how I think the biggest problem in science communication today is the...

GMOs And Pediatric Cancer Rates

There’s a post being highlighted by anti-GMO activists on Twitter that claims that cancer is...

Let’s Not Get Too Excited About The New UC Open Access Policy

It was announced today that systemwide Academic Senate representing the 10 campuses of the University...

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Michael EisenRSS Feed of this column.

Prof. Michael Eisen is an evolutionary biologist at U.C. Berkeley and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His research focuses on the evolution and population genomics of gene... Read More »


I wrote before about the controversy involving the release earlier this year of a genome sequence of the HeLa cell line, which was taken without consent from Henrietta Lacks as she lay dying of ovarian cancer in 1950s Baltimore.

Now, the NIH has announced an agreement with Lacks’ descendants to obtain their consent for access to and use of the HeLa genome (the agreement applies only to NIH funded research, but the hope is that others will agree to it as well).

We posted a new preprint from the lab on arXiv and would love your comments.

As expected, a coalition of subscription-based journal publishers has responded to the White House’s mandate that federal agencies develop systems to make the research they fund available to public by offering to implement the system themselves.

All animals live in a microbe rich environment, with immense numbers of bacteria, archaea, fungi and other eukaryotic microbes living in, on and around them. For some of these microbes, the association is transitory and unimportant, but many make animals their permanent home, or interact with them in ways that are vital for their survival.

Many members of an animal’s “microbiome” are affected by, and often become dependent on, aspects of the animal’s behavior. And, as microbes will do, some – and we believe many – of these microbes have evolved specific ways to manipulate the behavior of their animal neighbors to their advantage.

As many of you know, I spent a fair amount of time last month engaged in debates about the wisdom of California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of genetically modified foods. While many of these discussions were civil, one particularly energetic fellow accused me of having been brainwashed by the “cult of the NIH” into believing that anything science does must be good.

At the time I just giggled. But his Tweet stuck in my head. After the election I looked back on my twenty years as a scientist in the “NIH system” and I began to see the signs. So I read about cults – about what differentiates them from normal, run-of-the-mill organization. And I started keeping score (on a 1-9 scale, of course, with 1 being the most cult-ish).

Last week I wrote about the anti-science campaign being waged by opponents of the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture. In that post, I promised to address a series of questions/fears about GMOs that seem to underly peoples’ objections to the technology. I’m not going to try to make this a comprehensive reference site about GMOs and the literature on their use and safety. I’m compiling some general resources here, and a list of all FAQs here.