Scientific Award FAIL

Larry Moran reports that John Mattick, author of the infamous dog-ass plot, has won some genomics-related award that I have never heard of.

Moran has the sorry details:

I’m pretty sure that there’s no more than a handful of biochemists/molecular biologists who believe Mattick. They know that lots of noncoding DNA has a function—a fact that’s been in the textbooks for almost fifty years—but they do not believe that most of our genome encodes functional regulatory RNAs. It’s simply untrue that Mattick has proved his hypothesis over the past 18 years. Just the opposite has happened.

He quotes the press release:

The Award Reviewing Committee commented that Professor Mattick’s “work on long non-coding RNA has dramatically changed our concept of 95% of our genome”

Uh, no. Not true.

Beware claims by anyone that they can explain 95% or our genomes with a single functional category. Ryan Gregory has easily shot this one down with his Onion Test.

Larry says that he doesn’t recognize any of the people on the award committee. I don’t either, and I know the people in this field. Maybe the problem is in part that the award committee isn’t really based on scientific credentials:

The review committee is made up of top scientists, thought-leaders and/or government officials from around the Asia-Pacific region.

To save myself a long rant, I will just refer you to Larry:

Most knowledgeable, intelligent, biochemists know that at least half of our genome is littered with pseudogenes and defective transposons and viruses. That’s junk by any reasonable definition. They know that functional noncoding DNA makes up about 8% of the genome and when you add in the exons the total comes to no more than 10%.

Much of the remaining 40% is probably junk but that’s still a debatable point. (Half of it is introns.) What’s not debatable is whether all of this DNA contains genes for regulatory RNAs. Nobody (to a first approximation) believes that except for a few people who hand out prestigious awards.

And besides, I’m offended that this award has plagiarized the name of the venerable, and much more worthy science fiction award.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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