News of the WeekNewsmaker Interview: Felisa Wolfe-Simon

Discoverer Asks for Time, Patience Over Arsenic Bacteria Controversy

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Science  24 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6012, pp. 1734-1735
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6012.1734

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Three weeks ago, NASA astrobiology fellow Felisa Wolfe-Simon published a paper in Science about bacteria that can use arsenic instead of phosphorus in DNA and other biomolecules. Four days before the publication, NASA sent out a media advisory that it would hold a press briefing "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." Then came a torrent of criticism by scientists. Wolfe-Simon and her co-author Ronald Oremland then came under attack by journalists when they declined to respond to media calls for a response to these comments. On 16 December, the authors posted responses to some of the issues on, and Science will publish technical comments and responses in early 2011. In the meantime, Wolfe-Simon agreed to share some of her thoughts in an interview with Science's news department last week. A longer version is available online at