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Monday, May 16, 2022

Wikipedia editors want to supress an article on junk DNA

I've been trying to fix the Wikipedia artilce on Noncoding DNA but it's quite a challenge because the page is controlled by editors who are opposed to junk DNA and I am accused of starting an "edit war" that goes against the consensus. On a parallel track, I have proposed creating a separate Wikipedia article on junk DNA where we can present the evidence for and against junk. This is being disussed under the "Talk" thread on the "Non-coding DNA" article.

Here's an exchange bewteen me [Genome42] and one of the editors who exerts control over the noncoding DNA page. It's shows you what we are up against.

Let's get back to the main topic. Is there anyone here who objects to creating a separate page for junk DNA? If you object, please explain why because it seems to me that we really need such a page in order to explain to viewers what the main issues are in the controversy. We need some place to put all the evidence showing that 90% of the human genome is junk and to explain why many scientists reject this evidence.Genome42 (talk) 20:18, 15 May 2022 (UTC)

I looked at pubmed and searched for "junk dna" to see how prominent this topic even is. It seems the term is declining in usage in the scientific literature [7] (see the "results by year"). This is despite all of the abundant media coverage it still gets. I would say that if the usage in the scientific literature was rising then perhaps it would be good a good idea, but the reverse is happening. I see an increasing number of papers calling for abandoning the term altogether too. Just an FYI, one of the original reasons for the merge of the junk DNA to this article was that it was causing too much confusion and edit warring as a separate page. When merged you could have the general article on noncoding DNA without the fireworks and a section isolating the controversies coming from it rather than having 2 pages on the same topic with the Junk DNA article mixing controversy with general information on noncoding DNA.Ramos1990 (talk) 21:28, 15 May 2022 (UTC)

Are you serious? Do you really believe that the debate is over and junk DNA doesn't exist just because the opinions you prefer to read are against junk? You don't seem to be knowledgeable about this topic. I can help you get up to speed. Read these articles on my blog.

Also, you seem to be genuinely confused about the difference between junk DNA and noncoding DNA. Think of it this way. Genomes can be divided into centromeric DNA and non-centromeric DNA and the junk is located in the non-centromeric DNA. Does that mean we should have an article on non-centromeric DNA where we discuss junk? We can also split the genome between regulatory DNA and non-regulatory DNA but I don't see you calling for an article on non-regulatory DNA where we discuss junk DNA.

The only reason why you favor discussing junk DNA in a article on non-coding DNA is because you think that junk DNA was once defined as non-coding DNA and this article will prove that some non-coding DNA has a function - therefore it is not all junk. That's an extremely biased, and incorrect, view. No knowledgeable scientist ever defended the claim that all noncoding DNA was junk. Do you think we didn't know about noncoding genes, regulatory sequences, and origins of replication back in the 1960s?

Genomes can be separated into functional DNA and junk DNA and that's where the debate is. The non-coding DNA fraction is a heterogeneous mixture of functional elements and junk DNA and it's very confusing to mix them. An article on junk DNA will discuss all of the various functional regions of the genome and how common they are in the human genome. We will see that if you add them all up you only get to about 5% of the genome. The article will discuss the evidence for junk DNA and the arguments against claims for abundant function. None of that is appropriate in an article on non-coding DNA.

It's easy for me to see why there was "edit warring" over a junk DNA article. It's because many of the editors here are opposed to junk DNA so they try to suppress the legitimate scientific debate. You need to recognize that what you are doing here is expressing a very personal and biased opinion about the topic of junk DNA and you are using your position to start edit wars in order to censure any views in favor of junk DNA. Genome42 (talk) 14:49, 16 May 2022 (UTC)


Sunday, May 15, 2022

Describing non-coding DNA on the NIH (USA) National Human Genome Research Institute website

Here's a link to a short podcast on non-coding DNA narrated by Shurjo K. Sen, Program Director, Divison of Genome Sciences. This is the complete text.

Non-coding DNA. So I could talk about this one forever because it actually happened to be the part of the genome that I did most of my PhD work in. And there used to be an older and derogatory term called junk DNA, which, thankfully, doesn't get used these days much longer. So really, the thing to keep in mind here that human genome is a vast, vast expanse of nucleotides, 3.3 billion almost. And only a very, very small fraction of that, about 2% actually codes for what we know to be proteins. And so the question is, what really happens with the rest? Is it just there doing nothing? Or does it have a function? And for many years, particularly in the earlier stages of genomics as a field, people were not really sure that the non-coding parts of the genome have a purpose for being there. And now, or I would say over the last decade or so maybe, we are only just starting to realize that there are an immense number of ways in which what we think of as non-coding actually might just have a more subtle way of passing its information along. So it may not code in the classical protein-coding sense. But there is a ton of information crucial in many, many ways that is hidden in this part of the genome.

I wish I could tell you that this is some kind of a spoof but it's not. It's an example of the poor state of sceince these days and of how much work we need to do to fix it. I would start by firing the Program Director of the Division of Genome Sciences.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Editing the Wikipedia article on non-coding DNA

I decided to edit the Wikipedia article on non-coding DNA by adding new sections on "Noncoding genes," "Promoters and regulatory sequences," "Centromeres," and "Origins of replication." That didn't go over very well with the Wikipedia police so they deleted the sections on "Noncoding genes" and "Origins of replication." (I'm trying to restore them so you may see them come back when you check the link.)

I also decided to re-write the introduction to make it more accurate but my version has been deleted three times in favor of the original version you see now on the website. I have been threatened with being reported to Wikipedia for disruptive edits.

The introduction has been restored to the version that talks about the ENCODE project and references Nessa Carey's book. I tried to move that paragraph to the section on the ENCODE project and I deleted the reference to Carey's book on the grounds that it is not scientifically accurate [see Nessa Carey doesn't understand junk DNA]. The Wikipedia police have restored the original version three times without explaining why they think we should mention the ENCODE results in the introduction to an article on non-coding DNA and without explaining why Nessa Carey's book needs to be referenced.

The group that's objecting includes Ramos1990, Qzd, and Trappist the monk. (I am Genome42.) They seem to be part of a group that is opposed to junk DNA and resists the creation of a separate article for junk DNA. They want junk DNA to be part of the article on non-coding DNA for reasons that they don't/won't explain.

The main problem is the confusion between "noncoding DNA" and "junk DNA." Some parts of the article are reasonably balanced but other parts imply that any function found in noncoding DNA is a blow against junk DNA. The best way to solve this problem is to have two separate articles; one on noncoding DNA and it's functions and another on junk DNA. There has been a lot of resistance to this among the current editors and I can only assume that this is because they don't see the distinction. I tried to explain it in the discussion thread on splitting by pointing out that we don't talk about non-regulatory DNA, non-centromeric DNA, non-telomeric DNA, or non-origin DNA and there's no confusion about the distinction between these parts of the genome and junk DNA. So why do we single out noncoding DNA and get confused?

It looks like it's going to be a challenge to fix the current Wikipedia page(s) and even more of a challenge to get a separate entry for junk DNA.

Here is the warning that I have received from Ramos1990.

Your recent editing history shows that you are currently engaged in an edit war; that means that you are repeatedly changing content back to how you think it should be, when you have seen that other editors disagree. To resolve the content dispute, please do not revert or change the edits of others when you are reverted. Instead of reverting, please use the talk page to work toward making a version that represents consensus among editors. The best practice at this stage is to discuss, not edit-war. See the bold, revert, discuss cycle for how this is done. If discussions reach an impasse, you can then post a request for help at a relevant noticeboard or seek dispute resolution. In some cases, you may wish to request temporary page protection.

Being involved in an edit war can result in you being blocked from editing—especially if you violate the three-revert rule, which states that an editor must not perform more than three reverts on a single page within a 24-hour period. Undoing another editor's work—whether in whole or in part, whether involving the same or different material each time—counts as a revert. Also keep in mind that while violating the three-revert rule often leads to a block, you can still be blocked for edit warring—even if you do not violate the three-revert rule—should your behavior indicate that you intend to continue reverting repeatedly.

I guess that's very clear. You can't correct content to the way you think it should be as long as other editors disagree. I explained the reason for all my changes in the "history" but none of the other editors have bothered to explain why they reverted to the old version. Strange.