In the last few days, Dr. Melba Ketchum has released her five year report so anxiously we were awaiting two years ago. I took some time to let reactions settle in the community and mainstream to make my assessment, as sometimes a pragmatic approach is the best.
Now my job here is not to slam Dr. Ketchum, but rather take an honest look at what exactly went wrong.
This is a look without basis for motive, or supposition, but rather a dry look at why the Ketchum Study has failed.
Make no mistake, it has failed, as it missed the mark in being published in an established scientific journal with peer review with some degree of scientific acceptance.
As painful as that sounds to many, that is the cold hard fact of the matter, and I won’t pull that punch.
I will comment however that her solution to not being published in an established scientific journal was a rather unique one.
Then charge $30 to get a copy of the paper? (I understand much time effort, blood, sweat, tears and money went into the study, so I understand the reasoning behind it.)
Does it seem dubious? It could be construed as such by some. And that therein lies part of the problem.
I’m not saying it is, but perception is reality.
I’ve been critical of the study for a while now, after first being an ardent supporter, but I do feel a sort of melancholy that this most likely become another facet of Bigfoot Lore. I’m not saying the conclusions in the paper are right or wrong, if they came from a Sasquatch or not, I’m merely saying that in a study of such scientific relevance to the world all your T’s must be crossed and your I’s dotted.
In this case it failed epically, and to me that is the biggest disappointment, because for the last few years some researchers banked that this would be it. 2013 was being billed as the “Year of the Sasquatch.” I too was hopeful and wished it would have succeeded.
In an older blog post, I stated that sometimes we all get caught up in the hypocrisy of it all, even faulting myself for wanting to hear, or Dr. Ketchum to say something as far back as August of 2011 about the study to quell the folks clamoring for more, in true opposition to the scientific process. I also stated that in reflection that I was wrong having that attitude. We must let science take its course.
But in a stunning turn of events, perhaps out of frustration, Dr. Ketchum decided to implement a unique solution, doing a complete 180, which appears to me a fumble, when you’re down by 5 in the red zone with seconds left on the clock.
In retrospect if I looked at this as an outsider, it looks to me as an act of desperation.
By Dr. Ketchum’s own words that may be more fact than speculation.
“Rather than spend another five years just trying to find a journal to publish and hoping that decent, open minded reviewers would be chosen, we acquired the rights to this journal and renamed it so we would not lose the passing peer reviews that are expected by the public and the scientific community.
DeNovo, the new journal is aimed at offering not only more choices and better service to scientists wanting to submit a manuscript, but also reviewers and editors that will be fair, unlike the treatment we have received.
It has been a long and tedious battle to prove that Sasquatch exists. We have had the proof for nearly 5 years but building enough data to convince mainstream science has taken a lot of time.
Trying to publish has taken almost two years. It seems mainstream science just can’t seem to tolerate something controversial, especially from a group of primarily forensic scientists and not “famous academians” aligned with large universities, even though most of our sequencing and analysis was performed at just such facilities.
We encountered the worst scientific bias in the peer review process in recent history. I am calling it the “Galileo Effect”. Several journals wouldn’t even read our manuscript when we sent them a pre-submission inquiry. Another one leaked our peer reviews. We were even mocked by one reviewer in his peer review.”
– Dr. Melba Ketchum
Yes as Dr. Ketchum stated, there are people that are known as “scoftics” that exist and that is sad, not less than leaking the peer review. Very sad indeed. And I can understand and sympathize with the feelings associated with that. As researchers and investigators of this mystery we all know the feeling all too well.
But in the true nature of things, patience is a virtue, and it takes a very thick skin, as it took years for even Einstein to prove his law of relativity. One must think, you must pound down doors to get acceptance in science for something as controversial as the Sasquatch.
But do the mainstream skeptics bring up valid points?
As investigators and researchers we have to put aside our bias that the creatures exist, and take value at what some of the scientists are saying.
Gripes about the new journal
“However, geneticists who have seen the paper are not impressed. “To state the obvious, no data or analyses are presented that in any way support the claim that their samples come from a new primate or human-primate hybrid," Leonid Kruglyak of Princeton University told the Houston Chronicle. “Instead, analyses either come back as 100 percent human, or fail in ways that suggest technical artifacts.”
The website for the DeNovo Journal of Science was setup on February 4, and there is no indication that Ketchum’s work, the only study it has published, was peer reviewed.”
The Mother Nature Network
“DeNovo proclaims itself to be a peer-reviewed journal, but in her commentary, Ketchum says she is using peer reviews from a previous journal that rejected the manuscript.
In another odd twist that differentiates DeNovo from other scientific journals, it claims to be open access — which normally means that a publication’s papers are available to the public for free — yet it charges $30 to read the Sasquatch paper.
The news site Ars Technica paid the $30 fee for a copy of the paper and called it "a mess."
The science of the report
ArsTechnica.com known for breaking down scientific papers had the following analysis, breaking down why the study may have failed the peer review process to me what may be more indicative why than just bias or controversy alone:
“To begin with, the mitochondrial DNA of the samples (when it can be isolated) clusters with that of modern humans. That isn’t itself a problem if we assume that those doing the interbreeding were human females, but the DNA sequences come from a variety of different humans—16 in total. And most of these were "European or Middle Eastern in origin" with a few "African and American Indian haplotypes." Given the timing of the interbreeding, we should only be seeing Native American sequences here. The authors speculate that some humans may have walked across the ice through Greenland during the last glaciation, but there’s absolutely no evidence for that. The best explanation here is contamination.
As far as the nuclear genome is concerned, the results are a mess. Sometimes the tests picked up human DNA. Other times, they didn’t. Sometimes the tests failed entirely. The products of the DNA amplifications performed on the samples look about like what you’d expect when the reaction didn’t amplify the intended sequence. And electron micrographs of the DNA isolated from these samples show patches of double- and single-stranded DNA intermixed. This is what you might expect if two distantly related species had their DNA mixed—the protein-coding sequences would hybridize, and the intervening sections wouldn’t. All of this suggests modern human DNA intermingled with some other contaminant.
The authors’ description of the sequence suggests that it’s human DNA interspersed with sequence from some other primate—hence the interbreeding idea. But the best way to analyze this would be to isolate the individual segments of non-human DNA and see what species those best align with.
If the authors have done that, they don’t say. They also don’t mention how long the typical segment of non-human DNA is. Assuming interbreeding took place as the authors surmise, these segments should be quite long, since there hasn’t been that much time to recombine. The fact that the authors don’t mention this at all is pretty problematic.”
The Houston Chronicle spoke with two geneticists.
Dr. Leonid Kruglyak, (Kruglyak Lab, Princeton University)
“To state the obvious, no data or analyses are presented that in any way support the claim that their samples come from a new primate or human-primate hybrid. Instead, analyses either come back as 100% human, or fail in ways that suggest technical artifacts.
They make the bizarre claim that the failures might be caused by novel, nonstandard structure of the DNA (“Electron micrographs of the DNA revealed unusual double strand – single strand – double strand transitions which may have contributed to the failure to amplify during PCR.”) which would mean this DNA was different from DNA in all other known species.
There’s also the strange statement they couldn’t deposit sequences in GenBank because it’s a new/unknown taxon — GenBank does that no problem.
The tree in Fig 16 is inconsistent with known primate phylogeny and generally makes no sense.”
Figure 16, of the report. Source: http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/files/2013/02/Figure16.jpg
“It’s clearly a fake Vanity Journal with lots of ShutterStock pictures, misspellings and it was only created on 2/4/13. I’ve only read the abstract and conclusion and neither makes any sense.”
Given these statements, I with a heavy heart say, it has to be time to go back to the drawing board on this one.
And I know, personally, several of the contributors with skin in the game, that by me saying this, it may hurt their feelings. My purpose here is not to hurt anyone’s feelings, or any of the contributors for that matter, but rather understand the shortcomings and hopefully in turn will motivate you to move on with a new course, and new attitude and to continue the hard work that brought us this far to date. At least there was an attempt.
And while I think it was a noble and righteous attempt, it fell far short of hitting the mark, so what can we harbor from this as a teachable moment?
- Better collection and evidence gathering techniques. If researchers and investigators enter the forests, and you wish to collect forensic materials, be prepared and familiar yourself with good evidence collection procedures.
- Document, Document, Document. I cannot emphasize that more. Be prepared to take plenty of pictures and video as well of the sample pre-collection post collection. Write an evidence log with time, date and location, GPS coordinates if not exactly sure where you are.
- Finally, a brief synopsis on what brought you there to collect the evidence, witness sighting, history of sighting reports, anything to substantiate the claim that the sample may have come from a Sasquatch.
Till Next Time,