Tag Archives: human genome

Were journalists ‘fabulously naïve’ about human genome?

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

As Tinker Ready reported on the Nature Network’s Boston Blog, the luminaries gathered for Harvard’s panel on the 10-year anniversary of mapping the human genome, particularly the Broad Institute’s Eric Lander, had some strong opinions on media coverage of the event. Here’s Ready’s description of the spiciest bit:

Lander blamed the press for unrealistically high expectation for the human genome.
… Lander said that expectations for the impact of the research were “fabulously naïve. Journalists wrote about how we were going to have drugs for all these disease in the next decade. Somebody was smoking something. This was just nuts.”

The next day, on her Boston Health News blog, Ready revisited that particular quote for a bit of fact-checking. She went back to initial reports from The New York Times and USA Today, and tried to substantiate the claims of Lander, the lead author who himself wrote, at the time, that “The scientific work will have profound long-term consequences for medicine.”

Without spoiling Ready‘s post, I’ll just say she found some examples of restrained, responsible journalism. Were there a few hyperbolic quotes? Yes. But they came from scientists.