April 10, 2013

Closed-access story about DIY analysis tools

I find it a little odd that this story about DIY analysis tools, which (apparently) includes some quotes by myself, has now appeared in a closed-access publication. Had I known that to be the case, I doubt that I would have offered any response. It's probably not too late to make that item open access. 

In any case here's what I had to say (in full) to the author of the piece:

I think that a plurality of tools from a number of different analysts is an unambiguously good thing, both for the creators of these tools and their users.

For the users it is good because they can obtain different assessments of their ancestry, so they learn to be skeptical of extraordinary or unexpected claims of any particular test, and also to be more convinced of results that recur across many different tests.

For the creators it is good because of both (i) the motivation to improve their tools driven by competition with other test creators, and also (ii) the feedback they get from users of their tests.

These tools are also good for science in general, because a plurality of eyes (test creators and users) examine genetic data trying to detect interesting patterns in them that might be missed by more narrowly-focused research. So, a whole ecosystem of ideas springs up from these tests, as people try to fit their results into a broader pattern of human history. This is complementary to academic research: less structured and more "noisy" in terms of ideas that don't pan out, but also more dynamic, fast-paced and democratic.

As for Dodecad, I have developed my calculators by utilizing standard population genetics software, as well as software developed by myself, making use of publicly accessible academic datasets together with data from volunteers; the latter is very useful, because it helps me fill in gaps in population coverage: either because some populations have not been sampled in the literature yet, or, if they have, because their data is not publicly accessible to everyone.


  1. Hi, Dienekes!

    I think the work you have done and do has been/ is rather important and useful. There are many chattering virtual heads in the various anthropological and genetics forums that criticize you, but in reality they do nothing, you have done, do, and, hopefully, will continue to do something and it has, does, and, hopefully, will further contribute(d) to the discussion about genetics and open access issues. Keep up the great work. Your blogs are some of the more informative and useful on the web by far, especially, for those interested in genetics and anthropology and, sometimes, history and language.


Stay on topic. Be polite. Use facts and arguments. Be Brief. Do not post back to back comments in the same thread, unless you absolutely have to. Don't quote excessively. Google before you ask.