Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gina Kolata: past and present

In his 14 May 2010 post on WN, Bob Park writes of NYT person Gina Kolata: On Tuesday in the New York Times Gina Kolata, who is a good writer (...)

In the year 2007, author David Kaye, in MINN.J.L.SCI.&TECH.2007;8(2):409-427 wrote:

A 1992 report of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), as a compromise,
proposed a more “conservative” computational method, dubbed
“the ceiling principle” by its inventor and National Research
Council committee member, Eric Lander.25 The apparent need
for a compromise seemed to undermine the claim of scientific
acceptance of the less conservative procedure that was in
general use. Other NAS recommendations (for improvements
in quality control and assurance and more objective standards
for declaring matches) also were seen by some observers as
demanding the exclusion of DNA evidence.
An article by New York Times biomedical reporter Gina Kolata propounded a
particularly tendentious view of the report.
After a special
press conference called by Victor McCusick, the chairman of
the committee, the New York fine print) confessed error.27

26. Gina Kolata, U.S. Panel Seeking Restrictions On Use of DNA in
urts, N.Y. TIMES, Apr. 14, 1992, at A1. The article began by claiming that
the committee had said that DNA typing “should not be allowed in court in
the future unless a more scientific basis is established.” It insisted that “[t]he
new report . . . says courts should cease to admit DNA evidence . . . .” Id.
27. Gina Kolata, Chief Says Panel Backs Courts’ Use of a Genetic Test,
N.Y. TIMES, Apr. 15, 1992, at A23.

[David H. Kaye was a Regents’ Professor of Law at Arizona State
University. He joined the faculty in 1976. He currently is at Penn State. He
holds an undergrad degree in physics from MIT.]

The word tendentious means marked by a tendency in favor of a particular point of view : biased.
One could have said Kolata's article in the April 14, 1992 NYT was inaccurate.

Kaye wrote an article in 1993: David H. Kaye, DNA Evidence: Probability, Population Genetics,
and the Courts, 7 HARV. J. L. & TECH. 101 (1993).

LBE also wrote an article in 1993: Frye after Daubert: The Role of Scientists in Admissibility Issues As Seen
through Analysis of the DNA Profiling Cases, 1993 U Chi L Sch Roundtable 219, which included
the text:

The blitzkrieg entrance of DNA profiling into the legal system was assisted
by a general societal belief in the "can do" powers of biotechnology, probably
not unlike beliefs held about atomic energy in the 1950's. More directly, the
entrance into the legal system was facilitated by claims of enormous
probabilities of individuation in situations in which a match was declared; in
the extreme case, odds of 738 quadrillion to 1 against misidentification were
declared. n10 Because of its power of individuation, DNA profiling is the
single most powerful forensic tool of the 1990s.


State v Pennington, 327 NC 89, 393 SE2d 847, 853 (NC 1990) (The court
focussed on reliability of the scientific method rather than its popularity
within the scientific community); Caldwell v State, 260 Ga 278, 393 SE2d 436 (Ga
1990). For an account of a situation in which scientific consensus was wrong for
64 years, see J.M. McBride, Hexaphenylethane Riddle, 30 Tetrahedron 2009 (1974).


I am in complete agreement with the Daubert court that publication
should not be a sine qua non of admissibility and that publication does not
correlate with reliability. Daubert, 113 S Ct at 2797. At a minimum, there must
be sufficient articulation of a theory and arrangement of data such that a
scientist trained in the field can analyze the theory and data for validity.
Conversely, significant publication does not prove reliability, as illustrated
by the story of the hexaphenylethane in McBride, 30 Tetrahedron at 2009 (cited
in note 114) and the story of buckminsterfullerene in soot in Lawrence B. Ebert,
The Interrelationship of C(60), Soot and Combustion, 31 Carbon 999 (1993).

**In passing

Gina Kolata and the Criticism of Science Reporting in the NY Times

and from ahrp:

Incredibly, none of the journalists in the major media--including Gina Kolata (NYT), Rob Stein (Wash Post), Ron Winslow (WSJ), among others--saw fit to even mention the serious risks associated with statins. These include: a potential increase in liver enzymes, muscle aches, weakness, immune system suppression, an increase in cancer risk, and a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition called rhabdomyolysis-and the depletion of Q10, the co-enzyme for the production of cellular energy.

**UPDATE on 22 Nov 2010, to californiastemcellreport:

Of the text: “Contrast Wade's article with the piece by Gina Kolata in the same special section of the NYT. Ms. Kolata's piece is clear, well written, balanced, includes quotes from scientific leaders, and makes predictions. My opinion is that Wade's piece was thrown together at the last minute without editing as a counterpiece to Ms. Kolata's.

please note previous commentary on Kolata's writings which suggest work that is neither factually correct or unbiased.

Gina Kolata: past and present


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