News of the WeekNewsmaker Interview: Felisa Wolfe-Simon

Discoverer Asks for Time, Patience Over Arsenic Bacteria Controversy

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

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Summary

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 http://scim.ag/arsenicresponse, 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 http://scim.ag/arsenicqa.