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Balancing Act


For a virology course my junior year of college, two classmates and I put together a presentation on the 1918 influenza pandemic. We devoured journal articles, searched through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention archives, and tried to contact a leading virologist. It was one of the few projects from which I truly did learn a lot, as I still remember it vividly (though pictures of blackened feet do tend to make an impression). That same year, I had another project for an organic chemistry class that I would have rather done on my own — one of the other project members insisted that we give our presentation dressed up as characters from Captain America.

A balance is needed between working together and on your own, as our cover story in this issue points out. Consortia can take on huge tasks and develop vast resources that would otherwise take individuals their whole working lives to create. But, as Duke's David Goldstein says, there's the threat of groupthink that could, well, find you standing in front of 60 people with a mask on. Individual researchers are an antidote, he says, and can provide fresh perspective to the larger group. Both are necessary, as current funding policy shows. Furthermore, large-scale projects also develop new tools that individual investigators can then avail themselves of, says Eric Green, the new NHGRI director.

Also in this issue, Matthew Dublin looks into the world of evolutionary biology to see how genomics tools are being deployed. He writes that one of the hurdles there, as in other areas of research, is the mass of data.

It's also the first issue of a new year, so you'll see a few changes in our pages. Matt kicks off our new section on collaborative research and there's a new journal round-up section to catch those of you who haven't had a free moment up on the latest papers.

We also need to set the record straight. The profile of Dongliang Ge last month misstated his educational background. Ge received his PhD in 2004 from Peking Union Medical College and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

The Scan

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.

Survey Sees Genetic Literacy on the Rise, Though Further Education Needed

Survey participants appear to have higher genetic familiarity, knowledge, and skills compared to 2013, though 'room for improvement' remains, an AJHG paper finds.

Study Reveals Molecular, Clinical Features in Colorectal Cancer Cases Involving Multiple Primary Tumors

Researchers compare mismatch repair, microsatellite instability, and tumor mutation burden patterns in synchronous multiple- or single primary colorectal cancers.

FarGen Phase One Sequences Exomes of Nearly 500 From Faroe Islands

The analysis in the European Journal of Human Genetics finds few rare variants and limited geographic structure among Faroese individuals.