What we're reading: The origins of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, GWAS of "educational attainment", and the trouble with impact metrics

In the journals
Hardy, G.H. 1908. Mendelian proportions in a mixed population. Science 28: 49. doi: 10.1126/science.28.706.49.

Suppose that Aa is a pair of Mendelian characters, A being dominant, and that in any given generation the numbers of pure dominants (AA), heterozygotes (Aa), and pure recessives (aa) are as p:2q:r. … A little mathematics of the multiplication-table type is enough to show that in the next generation the numbers will be as (p + q)2 : 2(p + q)(q + r) : (q + r)2, or as p1:2q1:r1, say. The interesting question is – in what circumstances will this distribution be the same as that in the generation before?

Rietveld, C.A., Medland, S.E., Derringer, J., Yang, J., Esko, T., Martin, N.W., et al. 2013. GWAS of 126,559 individuals identifies genetic variants associated with educational attainment. Science, doi: 10.1126/science.1235488.

Estimated effects sizes are small (R2 ≈ 0.02%), approximately 1 month of schooling per allele. A linear polygenic score from all measured SNPs accounts for ≈ 2% of the variance in both educational attainment and cognitive function.

Johnston, M. 2009. We have met the enemy, and it is us. Genetics 1–2. doi: 10.1534/genetics.113.153486.

Those of us sitting on hiring and promotion and grant review committees must evaluate our colleagues’ work for its content rather than its cloak. We must judge it ourselves, and not cede our responsibility by automatically being impressed by the selectivity an article has realized. We—practicing scientists—must reclaim responsibility for setting the standards of our fields.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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