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A letter from the editor
As regular readers of our site may have noticed, things look a little different around here. We recently moved all of our Ask-a-Geneticist articles to a new home here at thetech.org — and gave them a facelift in the process!
Why the new look? Well, our previous site has been broken for quite some time, and we've been unable to add any new content. It also had some outdated flash interactives, and things related to museum exhibits that no longer exist. It was time for a change.
However, it also turns out the previous site was so old we couldn’t just say “move articles to the new location please!” Nope, each one needed to be moved by hand. On the plus side, this gave us a good excuse to actually re-read and assess our huge archive of content.
Our primary goal in this was to make each article its “best self” — accurate for its time, with language we would stand behind today. Most of the updates we made are merely cosmetic, but in some cases we made minor text changes or added important Editor's Notes.
In addition to the new layout, we’ve replaced many low resolution images with alternatives, updated broken links, and fixed broken formatting. Authors are more visible, with added basic biographical information. Each article now has a short title question and banner image to help you find what you’re looking for more quickly. “Related topics” tags should help you easily find similar articles — or just find our favorites (Editor's Choice and Quirky questions).
We added in missing references where needed, and in some cases made minor adjustments to improve accuracy compared to contemporaneous references we could find. Given they are blog-style articles that span the past 20 years, some will be outdated. The reality is that scientific understanding changes over time. As with any online posts, we would hope people check the dates on any article and seek out more recent information as needed.
But when we noticed articles that were especially outdated, we added Editor’s Notes to call out things that have dramatically changed. For example, geneticists used to think that traits like eye color, tongue rolling, curly hair, earlobe shape, or dimples were each caused by one or two genes. It turns out that all of these are more complicated than that. Yet as these Genetic Myths persist in people's memories, online, and in classrooms, we felt it important to keep these articles for reference.
Last but certainly not least, we’ve tried our best to review and update language as needed. We've made small-but-important changes in many places related to language on sex/gender, race vs ancestry vs ethnicity, and othering of certain genetic conditions. We can't promise to have gotten everything right, but we do hope things are better.
We haven't quite finished moving articles over. While we have over 600 refreshed new pages for you to explore, at last count we had another hundred questions (and 150 news articles) left on the shelf. We might get to some of them eventually. But after working on this for over a year, we’re excited to finally share it with readers!
Author: Dr. Abbey Thompson
Abbey is the Director of Educational Outreach for the Stanford Genetics Department. As part of this, she acts as “The Tech Geneticist,” reviewing all questions submitted to Ask-a-Geneticist and editing all new articles. She also leads the Stanford at The Tech program, which brings Stanford scientists to The Tech Interactive to run genetics activities with visitors in the BioTinkering Lab.