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Gene Name Autocorrect Fails Persist

Microsoft Excel-linked autocorrect problems affecting gene names still plague a number of papers, Nature News reports.

It notes the problems was first noticed in 2004 and resurfaced in 2016 when a team of Australian researchers reported in Genome Biology that about 20 percent of papers with supplementary gene lists contained gene name errors. Many of these errors could be traced to a function in Microsoft Excel in which, for instance, SEPT2 is converted to the date 2-Sep, while MARCH1 becomes 1-Mar. Last year, the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee issued new gene-naming guidelines to both standardize gene names as well as avoid these Excel-induced errors. The Verge noted at the time that MARCH1 was to then become MARCHF1.

Despite this, Nature News reports that an updated analysis finds the errors are only becoming more widespread. In PLOS Computational Biology, Deakin University's Mark Ziemann and his colleagues found gene name errors in more than 30 percent of papers with supplementary gene lists. Ziemann tells Nature News there are other options besides using spreadsheets but that also a simple check of sorting cells by gene symbols could bring date conversion errors to the top of the list.