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“And when you did you weren’t much use, you didn’t even know what a peptide was”

Last year we discussed the story of an article, “Variation in the β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine receptor genes is associated with different dimensions of human sociality,” published in PNAS that, notoriously, misidentified what a peptide was, among other problems.

Recently I learned of a letter published in PNAS by Patrick Jern, Karin Verweij, Fiona Barlow, and Brendan Zietsch, with the no-fooling-around title, “Reported associations between receptor genes and human sociality are explained by methodological errors and do not replicate.”

And here’s the response by one of the authors, Robin Dunbar, entitled “Sorry, we got it wrong” “On asking the right questions.”

Too bad they couldn’t simply admit they made an error, stating clearly and without equivocation that their original conclusions were not substantiated. On the plus side, they weren’t as rude as these authors.

P.S. The other thing in that post was that I suggested to PNAS that they change their slogan from “PNAS publishes only the highest quality scientific research” to “PNAS aims to publish only the highest quality scientific research.” And they did it! So cool.


  1. Patrick says:

    Do you have the wrong link on “weren’t as rude as these authors” ? It’s the same link as the one prior and doesn’t seem to portray anyone as rude… quite the opposite.

  2. Chas Busenburg says:

    The `these authors` hyperlink seems to be a duplicate of the `simply admit…` hyperlink.

  3. Jeff Walker says:

    Many of these types of study are little more than cargo-cult science whose authors believe that small p-values of associations discover stuff (hence the idea of false discovery) and PNAS has an abundance of them. The “highest quality” research in this area may start with some gene association studies, but these results are relegated to table/fig 1 or maybe the supplement. The bulk of “highest quality” papers describe the many experiments designed and executed to rigorously probe the working model of the effect of the variation (sequence, expression level, etc) on cell/tissue/whole organism function. Stuff is discovered after rigorous probing with highly controlled experiments not from p-values, regardless of adjusting.

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