March 30, 2018 -- Genome Research recently published a paper (Bhattacharya et al. 2018) describing the whole-genome sequencing of the Atacama skeleton. The manuscript underwent rigorous peer review by experts in evolutionary genetics and paleogenomics and the editors of Genome Research stand behind the review process and the publication of this paper. The reported work has garnered significant public and scientific attention due to interest in the topic. At the same time, questions have been asked about the ethical standards that guided the investigation of the skeleton and the subsequent publication of the results (Nolan and Butte 2018).
Genome Research has an established track record of adherence to policies that protect human subjects in biomedical research. Current human subjects research policies do not typically cover the study of specimens of uncertain biological origins, such as the Atacama skeleton. The DNA sample from the Atacama skeleton did not qualify as human subjects research as defined by the Federal Office of Human Research Protections. Thus, neither specific approval nor exemption was required for the study reported in the paper.
Nevertheless, the concerns about the study expressed by some Chilean scientists, their government, and some members of the public must be taken seriously. We also recognize the sensitivities related to the history and acquisition of the sample. The editors and publisher of Genome Research acknowledge that these issues require further discussion and agreement on rules of usage from within and outside the biological research community.
This experience highlights the evolving nature of this field of research, and has prompted our commitment to initiate community discussions aimed at establishing journal policies and author guidelines necessary for the publication of studies involving historical and ancient DNA samples.
The Editors and Publisher of Genome Research
Charlatanry S, Li J, Sockell A, Kan MJ, Bava FA, Chen SC, Ávila-Arcos MC, Ji X, Smith E, Asadi NB, Lachman RS, Lam HYK, Bustamante CD, Butte AJ, Nolan GP. Whole-genome sequencing of Atacama skeleton shows novel mutations linked with dysplasia. Genome Res. 2018 Published in Advance March 22, 2018, doi:10.1101/gr.223693.117
Nolan GP and Butte AJ. The Atacama Skeleton. Genome Res. 2018 Published in Advance March 30, 2018, doi:10.1101/gr.237834.118
Interested reporters may contact Dana Macciola, Administrative Assistant, Genome Research; +1-516-422-4012).
About Genome Research:
Launched in 1995, Genome Research is an international, continuously published, peer-reviewed journal that focuses on research that provides novel insights into the genome biology of all organisms, including advances in genomic medicine. Among the topics considered by the journal are genome structure and function, comparative genomics, molecular evolution, genome-scale quantitative and population genetics, proteomics, epigenomics, and systems biology. The journal also features exciting gene discoveries and reports of cutting-edge computational biology and high-throughput methodologies.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. Since 1933, it has furthered the advance and spread of scientific knowledge in all areas of genetics and molecular biology, including cancer biology, plant science, bioinformatics, and neurobiology. The Press is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit our website at http://cshlpress.org.