Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Arsenic and Bad Press

Well, the fallout from the NASA arsenic paper continues, revealing just how self-correcting the scientific process really is. David Dobbs of Wired has a follow-up post. He writes:
UC Davis’s Jonathan Eisen, who knows his extremophile bacteria and and his evo-sci quite well, tweeted that he “was gonna write about bad science & arsenic but no need – Rosie Redfield has all you need.” Evolutionary biologist John Hawks thought the Science paper clearly lacked the necessary controls to draw its conclusions. And Alex Bradley concluded that “this study lacks any real evidence for arsenate-based DNA; unfortunately these exciting claims are very very shaky.”

If the paper is as weak as these critiques hold, NASA appears to have been not just overzealous but reckless — and Science not only went along for the ride, cheering wildly, but put all the gas in the car.

For a technical response to the paper, Rosie Redfield's blog post is getting much airplay. She is pretty harsh in her judgment. I know next to nothing about microbiology, so don't have the expertise to evaluate it. It should be interesting to see how this plays out, though.

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