Several Flaws in Ewan Birney's Description of Publicly Funded Science

Several Flaws in Ewan Birney's Description of Publicly Funded Science

Matt Ridley wrote an article titled “The Myth of Basic Science” in Wall Street journal. The points made there are very similar to “Government is the Mother of All Invention” post of us from 2013.

It is no wonder that disgraced British ENCODE leader Ewan Birney became the most vociferous critic of that WSJ article.




Birney is the best example of massive waste due to publicly funded research. The ‘controversy’ section of ENCODE project at wikipedia is now bigger than the achievement section.

The project has also been criticized for its high cost (~$400 million in total) and favoring big science which takes money away from highly productive investigator-initiated research.[36] The pilot ENCODE project cost an estimated $55 million; the scale-up was about $130 million and the US National Human Genome Research Institute NHGRI could award up to $123 million for the next phase. Some researchers argue that a solid return on that investment has yet to be seen. There have been attempts to scour the literature for the papers in which ENCODE plays a significant part and since 2012 there have been 300 papers, 110 of which come from labs without ENCODE funding. An additional problem is that ENCODE is not a unique name dedicated to the ENCODE project exclusively, so the word ‘encode’ comes up in many genetics and genomics literature.[6]

The ‘achievements’ are properly summarized in Dan Graur’s “On the immortality of television sets: function in the human genome according to the evolution- free gospel of ENCODE”). After Graur published his paper, Birney’s friends such as Mick Watson, ridiculed Graur in social media, whereas his friends in Nature and Science published a number of critical articles without any substance. Then it all disappeared and truth won. Birney and Mick Watson responded childishly by blocking Graur on twitter.

What would have happened, if Birney tried something similar to ENCODE as a researcher at a private company and got caught? For example, what if he misreported about the effectiveness of a drug as 80% by redefining ‘effectiveness’? The company would not have had any option but to fire him. Instead under government management, he got promoted. Government funding is based on connections, not merit. For example, you can see the excitement of Eric Green , the corrupt head of government agency NHGRI, after Birney’s promotion in the following video.

Another aspect of publicly funded research - Dan Graur lost all his NIH funding after speaking the truth about ENCODE.

Eric Green, Funding, Authorship, Integrity, and an Answer to @phylogenomics

Eric Green is an author on many ENCODE papers, including the 2012 idiotic article in Nature, and of the many press releases which proclaimed that junk DNA does not exist.

Dan Graur has publicly described Eric Green and his ilk as badly trained technicians.

Dan Graurs previous main source of research money was NIH.

It isnt anymore.

So, given these facts, my null hypothesis is that Eric Green is to academic integrity what O. J. Simpson is to marital bliss. As with all scientific hypotheses, Ill wait for this one to be refuted. Should I hold my breath?

Case closed.

Written by M. //