Ancient DNA divide

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Science  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1384-1387
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6292.1384

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A technological revolution has led to a golden age of paleogenomics, and ancient DNA labs are popping up throughout northern Europe, the epicenter of this fast-paced field. By contrast, the structure and politics of science funding in the United States have put ancient DNA research—the epitome of curiosity-driven science—at a serious disadvantage. The interdisciplinary nature of the method is part of its power but also makes it prone to fall through the cracks in the U.S. system. And most human evolution research in the United States is considered social science, which has low priority. As a result, the United States has fallen far behind in a burgeoning field that has transformed our understanding of the past, and also turns out to have unexpected medical and environmental applications. European labs dominate lists of the top papers in the field, and researchers based in Europe are getting funding to crack some of the most tempting scientific problems in the Americas, as well. U.S. researchers are voting with their feet and heading for Europe, in a brain drain rarely seen operating in this direction.