Autocorrect errors in Excel still creating genomics headache




In 2016, Mark Ziemann and his colleagues at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, quantified the problem. They found that one-fifth of papers in top genomics journals contained gene-name conversion errors in Excel spreadsheets published as supplementary data2. These data sets are frequently accessed and used by other geneticists, so errors can perpetuate and distort further analyses.

However, despite the issue being brought to the attention of researchers — and steps being taken to fix it — the problem is still rife, according to an updated and larger analysis led by Ziemann, now at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia3. His team found that almost one-third of more than 11,000 articles with supplementary Excel gene lists published between 2014 and 2020 contained gene-name errors (see ‘A growing problem’).

Simple checks can detect autocorrect errors, says Ziemann, who researches computational reproducibility in genetics. But without those checks, the errors can easily go unnoticed because of the volume of data in spreadsheets.

Author(s): Dyani Lewis

Publication Date: 13 August 2021

Publication Site: nature