Few months back, we covered a population genetics study by John’s Hopkins researcher Eran Elhaik. His results did not agree with that of Harry Ostrer, and he requested for raw data from Ostrer’s study.
To illustrate his point, Elhaik swivels his chair around to face his computer and calls up a 2010 email exchange with Ostrer.
It was a great pleasure reading your groups recent paper, Abrahams Children in the Genome Era, that illuminate[s] the history of our people, Elhaik wrote to Ostrer. Is it possible to see the data used for the study?
Ostrer replied that the data are not publicly available. It is possible to collaborate with the team by writing a brief proposal that outlines what you plan to do, he wrote. Criteria for reviewing include novelty and strength of the proposal, non-overlap with current or planned activities, and non- defamatory nature toward the Jewish people. That last requirement, Elhaik argues, reveals the bias of Ostrer and his collaborators.
Allowing scientists access to data only if their research will not defame Jews is peculiar, said Catherine DeAngelis, who edited the Journal of the American Medical Association for a decade. What he does is set himself up for criticism: Wait a minute. Whats this guy trying to hide?
We thought that was an unusual condition for sharing scientific data, and in general, the raw genotype data backing Ostrer’s papers should be in some public repository. It is medically important to resolve the differences between Ostrer’s conclusion and Elhaik’s conclusion, as discussed in our earlier commentary. We sent a request to Dr. Ostrer requesting raw data, but he was too busy to respond.
Today Mike Eisen is making a lot of noise in twitter about what should and should not be done with raw data.
Here is a challenge for Dr. Eisen. To show us that you are serious and not only looking for twitter accolades, please get Ostrer’s raw genotype data released. There should be no reason not to given that the analysis was published years back.