What did surprise me was a three-page spread on Ewan Birney: Genomics' Big Talker, written by Elizabeth Pennisi. This is extraordinary. I don't know of another example where a leading science journal has promoted a young scientist in this manner. Of course, it's doubly extraordinary because, in this case, Science is promoting a scientist who just made some serious mistakes interpreting his own data! The man who is so prominently featured in the Sept. 7, 2012 issue of Science magazine is coming under serious criticism for letting publicity rule his science. He has almost single-handedly1 damaged the reputation of 400 scientists in the ENCODE Consortium and he did it, in part, because he was not knowledgeable about his own field of expertise! [see ENCODE Leader Says that 80% of Our Genome Is Functional and The ENCODE Data Dump and the Responsibility of Scientists]
UPDATE:A reader has reminded me that Science published two pages (online) on Felicia Wolfe-Simon at the time of the arsenic affair. Hmmmm ... is this the beginning of a pattern?
Birney has a blog [Response on ENCODE reaction] but he has not responded to questions. Check out Ryan Gregory's post to see what Birney is avoiding: Comments on Birney’s blog. Pay particular attention to the questions asked by Diogenes. Let's hope that the reason for Birney's silence is because he's preparing a lengthy and scientifically accurate response!
I wonder if Science is going to publish anything else on this fiasco? Most of the other journals have at least acknowledged that there's a problem with the ENCODE publicity campaign. Some have even defended junk DNA and emphasized the misleading statements published by Birney et al. So far, there's nothing on the Science website in spite of the fact that Science published one of the worst interpretations of the ENCODE results.... Or maybe it's BECAUSE it published such a biased account that we're not seeing any follow-up.
1. A number of group leaders seem to share Birney's myopic view of genome research so it's not all Birney's fault.