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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Chapter 9: The ENCODE Publicity Campaign

In September 2012, the ENCODE researchers published a bunch of papers claiming to show that 80% of the human genome was functional. They helped orchestrate a massive publicity campaign with the help pf Nature— a campaign that succeeded in spreading the message that junk DNA had been refuted.

That claim was challenged within 24 hours by numerous scientists on social media. They pointed out that the ENCODE researchers were using a ridiculous definition of function and that they had completely ignored all the evidence for junk DNA. Over the next two years there were numerous scientific papers criticizing the ENCODE claims and the ENCODE researchers were forced to retract the claim that they had proven that 80% of the genome is functional.

I discuss what went wrong and lay the blame mostly on the ENCODE researchers who did not behave as proper scientists when presenting a controversial hypothesis. The editors of Nature share the blame for not doing a proper job of vetting the ENCODE claims and not subjecting the papers to rigorous peer review. Science writers also failed to think critically about the results they were reporting.

Click on this link to see more.
Chapter 9: The ENCODE Publicity Campaign

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