(Roughly) Daily

“The unexamined life is not worth living”*…

Diana Gitig reports on research that suggests that some of us agree more actively with Socrates than do others– and for a baked-in reason…

People who enroll in genetic studies are genetically predisposed to do so.

According to the Catalogue of Bias, ascertainment bias occurs when a sample being studied is not representative of the target population. This can produce misleading or even false conclusions, and it can be hard to detect since it cannot usually be identified by examining the sample alone. This is why many studies try to use variables other than participation in the study to make sure their samples are as representative as possible.

Studies examining how a particular treatment affects a particular health outcome often try to handle ascertainment bias by adjusting for “covariates,” things like education level or socioeconomic status, that could affect health outcomes independently of the treatment. But Stefania Benonisdottir and Augustine Kong at Oxford’s Big Data Institute have just demonstrated that we can determine if genetic studies are biased using nothing but the genes of the participants.

And they used that technique to show that there’s a genetic contribution that influences the tendency to participate in genetic studies…

People in a genetic database have segments of DNA in common unexpectedly often: “Want to have your genes tested? It might be genetic,” in @arstechnica.

The Benonisdottir and Kong paper, in Nature Genetics, is here.

* Socrates


As we battle bias, we might send systemic birthday greetings to Sergei Winogradsky; he was born on this date in 1856. A microbiologist, ecologist, and soil scientist, he discovered chemoautotrophy (now better known as known as chemosynthesis) and the the Nitrogen cycle— which is to say that he pioneered the cycle-of-life concept.

The Nitrogen Cycle (source)


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