Disputing claim of arsenic-based life: Via blog

Study challenges existence of arsenic-based life : Nature News & Comment.

A strange bacterium found in California’s Mono Lake cannot replace the phosphorus in its DNA with arsenic, according to researchers who have been trying to reproduce the results of a controversial report published in Science in 20101.

A group of scientists, led by microbiologist Rosie Redfield at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, have posted data on Redfield’s blog that, she says, present a “clear refutation” of key findings from the paper.

But the authors of the Science paper are not retreating from their conclusions. “We are thrilled that our results are stimulating more experiments from the community as well as ourselves,” first author Felisa Wolfe-Simon, now at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, wrote in an e-mail to Nature. “We do not fully understand the key details of the website experiments and conditions. So we hope to see this work published in a peer-reviewed journal, as this is how science best proceeds.”

Tip: @Anxiousmedic on Twitter

Scientists fight about this stuff. And that’s OK. It is ironic that Wolfe-Simon remarks upon peer-review since her discovery was announced on TV before it had been digested by the scientific community. No one was available at that point to really question the announcement that left the public quite confused about what had just happened.

Science by press conference is a BAD idea. There is a process by which you can hash things out. I’m not clear that fighting a bad move with a blog post is the way forward. I don’t like science by blog either.

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  3 comments for “Disputing claim of arsenic-based life: Via blog

  1. Acleron
    January 23, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    Science by peer review in journals that are not freely available is also problematical.

    Dr Redfield’s blog has been a refreshing insight into her work as it took place. Wolfe-Simon had the chance to ask any points she didn’t understand and contribute to the progression of the work as it happened. She chose not to. I can, however, appreciate her call for peer reviewing, after all, as you point out, she was criticised the first time around for going the media route first.

  2. Massachusetts
    January 23, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    I recommend several peer reviewed articles, then a Nova episode on PBS, then a press conference.

  3. Massachusetts
    January 23, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    This reminds me a bit of the Mars meteorite with alleged microfossils.

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