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- Sep 22, 2018
- Underground in America
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This is sad.
Microsoft Excel: 1 — Human Genetics: 0.
The solution would be for Microsoft to come out with a geneticist-friendly mod to Excel. Which is just a version that turns off all the fucking auto-conversion bullshit.[O]ver the past year or so, some 27 human genes have been renamed, all because Microsoft Excel kept misreading their symbols as dates.
The problem isn’t as unexpected as it first sounds. Excel is a behemoth in the spreadsheet world and is regularly used by scientists to track their work and even conduct clinical trials. But its default settings were designed with more mundane applications in mind, so when a user inputs a gene’s alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 — short for “Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1” — Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar.
This is extremely frustrating, even dangerous, corrupting data that scientists have to sort through by hand to restore. It’s also surprisingly widespread and affects even peer-reviewed scientific work. One study from 2016 examined genetic data shared alongside 3,597 published papers and found that roughly one-fifth had been affected by Excel errors.