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Sweeping the Blogs


Checking on Platypus

After Nature published the draft genome sequence of the platypus, the Web responded. Bloggers contended that the platypus is not really the "freak of nature" news stories made it out to be. "The platypus is not part anything: it's 100% mammal, with some primitive traits of ancient mammals, like egg laying, and a few newly invented traits like the bill, the webbed feet, and the venomous spines," Adaptive Complexity's Michael White writes. At Genomicron, T. Ryan Gregory agrees. "Like all modern species, it retains some ancestral characters, possesses many highly derived characters, and shows convergent evolution with some other groups," he says.

Google Health is Live

It's been a long time coming, but Google Health officially launched, and there was much talk out on the blogs about it. Thomas Mailund doesn't see much point to the service. "I trust my physician and would want him to figure out what medicine I need, if any," he says. Neil Saunders wonders how much information will be needed to make it truly useful, while TechCrunch's Eric Schonfeld compares it to Microsoft's HealthVault, explaining that it will focus more on the consumer side at first. Still, Beth Israel Deaconess and the Cleveland Clinic decided to put it to the test.

Open Access Galore

Open access got a lot of well-intentioned lip service in the blogosphere this month. For those who are still not sure what OA means, open access leader Peter Suber clears it up by relating the difference between "strong" open access (freely available for any use) and "weak" open access (free, but with limited permission to use it). At his blog, Peter Murray-Rust stresses that chemistry data is in dire need of being made openly available. To spin this out into something useful, Deepak Singh thinks that open data needs business models à la Google to free it. "Data, especially open data, needs to be accompanied by APIs that allow the data to be accessed in a number of formats. The key aspect here [is] the business models," he writes.

Personal Genomics

Though GINA passed, not all is well for personal genetics testing. At the US News and World Report's health blog, Michelle Andrews cautions that just because GINA will allow people to get genetic tests without worrying about being turned down for health insurance doesn't mean that an insurer will pay for it. Many of the tests are considered not predictive, accurate, or medically actionable enough to be worth covering, she writes. Brandon Keim blogs for Wired that even though GINA will encourage people to get genetic tests, there are a few "blind spots" that the bill doesn't confront, like genetic discrimination when applying for life insurance or long term care and disability insurance.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.