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Out on the Blogs


In the past month the blogosphere's been aquiver with buzzwords, Jonathan Eisen's new job, obsolete lab skills, and results from 23andMe.

A New Post

Jonathan Eisen, professor and blogger extraordinaire, has long touted the benefits of the open access movement. Now he's gotten his due by being named the academic editor-in-chief of PLoS Biology. The announcement led to a cacophony of shouts of congratulations from his fellow bloggers. Neil Saunders jokes, "Jonathan, you realise that you're now the figurehead for the revolution, don't you?" Not to worry, this new duty won't interfere with Eisen's blogging. "I have vowed that this new appointment will not change my blog style," he wrote to GT's Daily Scan. 

So Five Minutes Ago

A few bloggers began discussing what lab skills they have accumulated over the years that are now obsolete, or at least unhelpful outside their own particular labs. Bora Zivkovic and Sandra Porter list melatonin radioimmunoassay and rocket electrophoresis, among other talents. Commenters on their blogs also joined the fray, adding titrations, slide rules, and RNase protection assays. More seriously, Porter also wonders about the time lag between skills that are necessary in active biology labs and what is being taught to biology students.


Computational biologist Lars Juhl Jensen, a scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, developed BuzzCloud, a way to visualize what's hot in the biomedical field. In the cloud, the common words are big and the rarer ones are small; color reflects whether a word is more popular in scientific or medical journals. Words with lots of buzz in 2007 included quantitative proteomics, metabolomics, and quantitative medicine. (2006 was bigger on regenerative medicine and gene ontology.) Jensen posts all this on his Buried Treasure blog.

The Results Are In

All those people who sent off their DNA to 23andMe and its competitors are getting their results back. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, true to his word, posts his results on his blog. Arrington discovers he didn't get the gene for alcohol flush but does have the one for wet earwax. His results also say he has a gene for tallness (he says he is 6' 4") and that he has brown eyes. Also, he has a gene that makes him more susceptible to lower back pain. One of his readers, David Touve, wonders on his own blog how this information will be used by employers as testing becomes more widespread.

The Scan

Comfort of Home

The Guardian reports that AstraZeneca is to run more clinical trials from people's homes with the aim of increasing participant diversity.

Keep Under Control

Genetic technologies are among the tools suggested to manage invasive species and feral animals in Australia, Newsweek says.

Just Make It

The New York Times writes that there is increased interest in applying gene synthesis to even more applications.

Nucleic Acids Research Papers on OncoDB, mBodyMap, Genomicus

In Nucleic Acids Research this week: database to analyze large cancer datasets, human body microbe database, and more.