Over the last few months, we learned far more from Dan Graur’s entertaining blog than we could by going through research papers on evolutionary biology. For example, his commentary “Mutations (Synonymous, Nonsynonymous, Silent, Noisy, Sense, Nonsense, Missense, Neutral, Advantageous, Deleterious): A Short Primer (Synonymous ? Silent ? Neutral)” is short, but drives home the point. However, his name did not ring a bell in our mind 6-7 months back. Here is how we discovered him.
In January, we came across a paper by Dr. Eran Elhaik linking genetics and Khazar kingdom. The topic is of great interest to us, because we read bits and pieces about Khazar history at various places, but many of those historical presentations seemed to describe the empire as fictional. Two questions always popped in our mind - (i) How could an entire empire disappear without leaving any trace? (ii) If genomics is as informative as people describe it to be, someone should settle the Khazar questions one way or other, yet nobody seemed to have addressed it. Naturally we were excited, when we saw Dr. Elhaik’s paper in January (covered here).
However, we also maintained healthy dose of skepticism about his paper like we do with all genomics papers making big claims. To learn more, we found his email address by google and sent him an email asking questions. He was kind enough to reply, and we were surprised to get reply with healthy dose of scientific skepticism about things (error bars, limitations of data to reach his answer, etc.) and not an attempt to oversell a theory. A good scientist always tries to find holes in his theory. Based on several exchanges, we concluded that Dr. Elhaik was a good scientist.
Two months later, we discovered the ENCODE rebuttal paper with his name and covered it here simply because we earlier concluded that he was a good scientist. We did not care about the other authors, and presumed that the first author (Dan Graur) was his colleague. Later Dr. Elhaik corrected us by mentioning that he did his PhD work with professor Graur.
Boring story? Here is the punchline. We put our names with Dr. Graur and Dr. Elhaik (or rather they added their names with ours) in not one, but two papers !!!! It took us six long years to learn who our co-authors were.
That is how ‘big science’ works.
One reason for writing this commentary is to speak against the current effort about consolidating comments on various papers to centralized locations. For example, Dan Graur wrote on a recently published PLOS One paper in his blog, and one reader requested him to post his comment at the PLoS ONE site.
Finally, it would be great if you posted your comments on the paper itself on the PLoS ONE site, where other readers of the paper will be able to see it and the authors will have a chance to respond.
We do not believe posting his comment at the journal site will serve any purpose, and if at all, it would make his comment less visible. The internet is distributed by design, and the search engines have the natural ability to connect the most relevant pieces together. We believe it is counter-productive to go the extra way and centralize the internet to journal sites.
Once Dan Graur’s blog gets enough visibility, it is a journal by itself, and definitely a journal with higher ‘impact factor’ than supposedly high impact journals.