Sunday, 9 August 2020

naming conventions or format cells

Via Kottke’s Quick Links (now archived) we learn that rather than trying to carve out exceptions in the programming of the world’s most prevalent spreadsheet software that is a little notorious in trying to anticipate one’s intentions and be helpful or trust that the next person to collaborate on a research project remembers to disable automatic formatting, geneticists are modifying gene names and initialisms so that Microsoft Excel doesn’t misconstrue (see also here and here) them as dates.
Personally my biggest frustration is inheriting a Frankenstein of a document that has conflicting source margins and artefacts of older surprises built into it unsuspecting of its future consequences and accom- modations but it’s rather astounding and frightening to read that fully twenty percent of known errors in published papers can be attributed to errant aliases like SEPT-1, gene that encodes the protein septin needed for cell division and may play a part in Alzheimer’s disease, or MARCH1 (Membrane-Associated Ring-CH Type Finger 1). Scientists and universities are working on reforming the nomenclature retroactively and going forward (though I imagine it is hard to future proof such things) to reduce the chance of misinterpretation by a computer try-hard, like Mister DNA from Jurassic Park.