Bovine genomics

Genomics often promises us two things – insight into diseases and improvements to agriculture. So the headline "scientists map DNA sequence for bovine animals" caught my eye.

I wonder why the ABC even bothered to post this story. It consists of 5 sentences, with no links to additional information. It claims that a 5-year project is now “finished”. It’s unclear whether we are talking about genetic mapping or genome sequencing – a common source of confusion in this type of article.

Some Googling lead me to this press release from the Baylor College of Medicine. I’m fairly sure that this was the source for the story. What we’re actually talking about is the bovine genome sequencing project. Far from being “finished”, the project has released a new dataset which includes a genetic map, SNP data and the latest sequence assembly. Your starting point is of course at the NCBI. Links from there will lead you to mammalian genome projects. The bovine genome consortium includes contributions from the Genome Sciences Center, Vancouver and CSIRO, Australia.

I find increasingly that piecing together stories via Google News is the best way to get all the information. Individual news sites, excepting the BBC of course, are frequently quite pitiful.

5 thoughts on “Bovine genomics

  1. Gustav

    Why bother with newspapers/-sites? I suspect they often do not give a fair representation of what’s going on in science. (And the discrepancy between what’s really going on and the picture in media, is an interesting thing in itself.)

    Many journalists probably use press releases (which, in themselves, of course, don’t always give a fair and balanced view of what’s going on) instead of looking at papers or other sources closer to scientific practice. And they probably hang out at Eurekalert http://www.eurekalert.org/ Newswise http://www.newswise.com/ or Alpha Galileo http://www.alphagalileo.org/

  2. nsaunders Post author

    I agree that if you really want to know what the story is, you’d go to the source rather than mainstream media. Still, I like to keep an eye on science journalism, just to see how things are reported to the interested, non-scientist public. Sadly the answer is usually “poorly”. I find the ABC to be especially bad – this is Australia’s national broadcaster, who like to style themselves after the BBC, but their depth and quality is very poor. You really get the impression that they don’t care about science stories, or don’t have adequately trained reporters. Compare BBC News or BBC Science News with ABC News or ABC Science News and you’ll see what I mean. And then we wonder why there’s a shortage of science graduates in this country.
    It could be worse though – the SMH, Sydney’s major newspaper and an important news source nationally can’t even muster a science/nature section.

  3. Gustav

    I agree that it is very interesting to look at science journalism, and what effects it might have on research policy, financing of science, science’s place in society and so on.

    One is, as you’ve noted, shortage of students or uninterest among young people. I think we are about the same age … I was born in 1967 and where I grew up (Swedish middle class background), as far as I remember, there were quite a lot of fun science around in media. Made me and several of my friends in school want to become scientists; we constructed our own telescopes, built electronics devices, collected minerals, that sort of thing.

    Also, some fields do get lots of coverage, perhaps more than what they’re worth (according to what measuring stick, one could ask, but anyway…), and they might get more resources (or more trouble, if the coverage is negativ).

    As a historian of science, I find these things quite fun to look for historically, but they seem to be present today as well.

  4. nsaunders Post author

    Yes, I had a similar childhood – taking radios to pieces, squinting at Comet Halley through a tiny telescope, sampling local ponds and ditches, building tanks for tadpoles and caterpillars and watching them turn into frogs and butterflies. Happy, innocent idyllic times!

    I read somewhere recently that children in the USA are no longer allowed to have chemistry sets, which is just appalling if it’s true.

  5. Gustav

    I also remember seeing Comet Halley with a small telescope.

    Yes, those were idyllic times of science for fun. I plan to return to those pursuits when I grow a bit older and have more time; I will also have lots of more money than when I was a teenage amateur astronomer, which means I can get a really good telescope.

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