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Hazards to Avoid

Genomics researchers from universities in Utah, Texas, and Boston have put together some helpful guidelines to help tenderfoots avoid early disappointment and disillusion with their chosen career.

Their PLOS Biology article warns against six behaviors and attitudes to experimental design, data use, and interpretation that are an anathema to good research practice and potentially hazardous to budding careers.

Their list includes the farmer's approach, which is to gather "bushels of data" upfront without thinking about a specific use for it once it's in the barn. There's also the gold miner's approach which is to "keep digging," and eventually, hopefully, maybe magically "we will find what we are looking for." Then there are the genomics cowboys whose thought process goes something like this: publish first, ask questions later.

To avoid early derailment, have "clear objectives," "suitable analytical approaches," and take into account "sample-size requirements, confounding variables, and evaluation measurements" and decide on these a priori, the researchers say. Also, it's prudent to "stay true to … original experimental design, use positive and negative control experiments, and be open about the approaches that were attempted but failed." Finally pay attention to "potential confounding effects and statistical biases that could lead to inappropriate conclusions," they write.

The team hopes "by documenting the behaviors of these common types … to guide researchers in their quest to apply sound practices when designing genomics experiments and analyzing the resulting data."