Tag Archives: MeSH

When databases crack you up…

If you are someone who’s spent a lot of time deep in the recesses of databases — deeper than the average end users — sometimes you find some really interesting  things.  Sometimes they are instructive, such as: hmm…I didn’t realized mice had a bone there until I was working the the anatomical hierarchy at Jax…  Sometimes they are creepy.  Buried in the MeSH hierarchy was about the most repulsive term I’d ever seen in a controlled vocabulary.  I complained about this to them probably 10 years ago, and just realized it doesn’t appear in MeSH 2010, finally.

But then there are other times when a database search leaves one ROFL.  That happened some time ago when I came across this odd tidbit in a search for gray hair genes. It generated some discussion among my sphere of colleagues about other funny things we’ve come across in the databases.

Well, there’s one whole blog dedicated to the pursuit of humor in NCBI’s PubMed.  I just found out from the #scio10 tweets from the ScienceOnline2010 meeting that they have found a new home on the Discover blogs collection!

NCBI ROFL: Hello, world! (again)

Congrats to them.  If you find you need to chuckle at the literature sometimes–or need a funny sample for a presentation perhaps, check them out at their new home. They also take suggestions. So if you find something in PubMed that cracks you up, send it along.

Hopeful monsters? I hope not.

As I was cruising through the emails I keep for blog fodder, I came across one that I had kept–but needed to percolate about for a while. It is a term that has disturbed me for years, and I almost hate to talk about it because I find it so distasteful. I don’t want to perpetuate it. But maybe if more people know, it might change.

The GenomeWeb newsletter linked to an article called The Monster Is Back, and It’s Hopeful on the NYT blog. A piece of it describes the concept:

But it’s only as our ability to dissect genomes has been transformed — a change that has really happened within the last ten years — that the idea of the hopeful monster has begun to stage a comeback. (Note, however, that few modern biologists use the term. Instead, most people speak of large morphological changes due to mutations acting on single genes that influence embryonic development.)

The reason this disturbs me is actually because of MeSH, not so much because of the stories of fruit flies and fish. If you go to MeSH right now and search for the term “monster” you will find it in the database. I stumbled across this years ago when testing software at Proteome. I was shocked to see this in the controlled vocabulary, and thought it must be a joke. It isn’t. I told my colleagues–we were appalled. Continue reading