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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Possible early release date for Ketchum DNA Study. Several lines of evidence seem to be converging around a possible early release date for Dr. Melba Ketchum’s Bigfoot DNA study.
1. Sequencing of the Bigfoot nuclear genome. There was a rumor around November 1 that the team was ready to finalize the sequencing of the entire Bigfoot nuclear DNA genome. Approximately one month later, Ketchum released an optimistic but cryptic comment on her Facebook page about some remarkable recent progress.
The nuclear genome was only partially done in the early days of the study. For instance, the MC1R gene that we discussed earlier has about 1,000 polymorphisms. Of those, only ~400-500 had been done by the time that our source released data to us.
There are many reasons that make full sequencing of the nuclear genome a difficult task. The main one is the use of primers. Human primers were initially used for the nuclear DNA, but since Bigfoots are not humans, the team soon ran into a lot of problems with the use of human primers. That is, human primers simply did not cut it for Bigfoot nuclear DNA. So the team had to invent their own new primers, and this is an immensely complicated task. Further, sequencing has to be run repeatedly, sometimes even backwards. In a phrase, it’s a great big mess.

After a year or so of messing around with all these problems, the team has apparently ironed out all of the kinks. After Wally Hersom may have given the go-ahead for the funding for the entire nuclear genome around November 1, I estimate that it may have taken ~1 month to get it done. That coincides remarkably with Ketchum’s optimistic Facebook release on December 1.
2. A cryptic comment on Ketchum’s Facebook page on December 3, only two days after the possible completion of the nuclear sequencing. Here it is:
For all of the people speculating on the Erickson project, Adrian and I have agreed to set aside the NDA to tell you that his group is a successful participant in this project. His research project to obtain the DNA samples is separate from us. His samples will be in the paper along with all of the successful submitters. And, yes, his great footage will come out so lets let all of the rumors go, OK? And once again, please know that we are at the mercy of the journal as to when we can announce. Thanks!
The phrase to watch here is:
And once again, please know that we are at the mercy of the journal as to when we can announce.

What this seems to imply, as RW Ridley suggests, is that the paper has already been accepted by the journal and a release date may have been made.
However, Ketchum is forbidden by the rules of Embargo from making an actual release about the paper before it is published. This is called an “embargo.” When a paper has been accepted and especially when a publication date has been finalized, all parties, especially the authors but also journalists, are bound by something called an “embargo” from discussing the paper or its data before the end of the embargo period. The embargo usually ends a day or so before the paper is published.
The notion of embargo is controversial with journalists, and there has been a lot of discussion about it in journals lately.
In recent years, there has been a flood of early releases of data from papers before they were published. Those releasing the data were significant press organs. After the release, typically the journal decided to break the embargo before its time was up because, so to speak, the hole was already in the dike. Cases of journals pulling papers fully due to embargo breaks have been rare. Usually they have been lifting the embargo prematurely instead.
Say a paper was set to publish on June 15. An early break from Science News on May 10 meant that the journal lifted the embargo early, on Mary 15. Get it?
For more on what constitutes an embargo and the many embargo breaks and lifts that are happening all the time in the world of journals and the press, see this excellent blog.
The important point here is that Ketchum seems to be implying that the paper has already been accepted for publication and that a date has been set, but the paper is under embargo, and no one can release data or a publication date until the journal itself lifts the embargo a day or so before publication. This is what her “we are at the mercy of the journal…” comment may mean.
3. Rumored December 31 release date. All of this could mean a release is coming soon. A December 31 date, tossed around as a rumor, would certainly be within the correct time period if the paper were in fact under embargo.

4. Change of attitude by Ketchum in her Facebook releases. Ketchum has been positively giddy in her Facebook releases for a month or so now. This is not her typical personality to say the least. This implies that something may well be up, and we may be looking at a release shortly.

5. Strange statement by Adrian Erickson recently. On October 31, Erickson made an odd appearance at a dinner for John Green in British Columbia. There he made the cryptic comment that “2011 would be the year of the Sasquatch.” Since the year was nearly up when he made this comment, and nothing serious had happened in the Bigfoot world in the year up to that date, it is possible that he may be privy to a 2011 release date for the paper.

6. Extreme crackdown on leakers by Erickson. Erickson has always been paranoid and obsessive about leakers. There has been a total information blockade on any non official news about the Erickson Project for years now. That’s the way he likes it.
Recently, that crackdown has escalated dramatically, which is why you won’t see me writing much about the EP for the forseeable future. If a Ketchum paper release and an attendant Erickson video release were coming soon, one would expect Erickson to dramatically ramp up pressure to shut down the spies and leakers. The fact that there has been an extreme crackdown on EP leakers in the past couple of months could indeed be evidence that the release for the Ketchum paper and Erickson’s video may be coming quite soon.

7. Very strange patch up of relations between Erickson and Ketchum. As you can see in the release above, Ketchum says that Erickson and Ketchum have patched up their differences enough to set aside the NDA in order that Erickson’s six samples can be allowed into the study. This was necessary because as we reported earlier, the terms of the old NDA between the two would make Ketchum reluctant to include Erickson’s samples in the study because she wants everyone in under her new super-NDA’s.
This kissing and making up doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. We have been reporting for months that these two do not get along, to say the least, that there have been rumors of lawsuit threats between the two, on and on. Why should they suddenly become best of friends under conditions where they have been sworn enemies for ages?
Only one reason in my book. The paper is about to be released soon, and Erickson desperately wants his samples in the study. He wants a nice paper so he can release his video. She wants his video to add whomp to her paper. They hate each other, but they need each other desperately.
Under such conditions, sure, they would temporarily patch up relations pragmatically and temporarily.

8. First public statement by Ketchum about Erickson’s video. For the longest time, Ketchum has refrained from saying anything about Erickson’s video. Then in the release above and comments afterwards, she not only mentions the video but lavishes praise on it.
A commenter asks later if the video is real. She answers, “Oh, Erickson’s got the goods all right!” That she is finally talking about the video after all this time and talking about it in such gushing terms may mean that the DNA paper is coming out soon, which will surely be followed very shortly by Erickson’s video.

9. Pre-emptive salvos by the BFRO’s Matt Moneymaker on the Sierra Kills and Ketchum’s DNA project. Moneymaker has been silent on both of these stories until very recently, but in the past week or so, he sounded off very defensively on each issue, effectively trashing both the Kills and the DNA project. Matt is ultra-competitive and has the insecurity that goes along with that. It could well be that he senses an upcoming release by Ketchum, and this is why he is issuing pre-emptive volleys at Ketchum as initial shots in a rhetorical war.
Are we breaking the embargo on Ketchum’s study? Of course not. We don’t even know if it’s been accepted to a journal or not, much less the name of the journal or the publication date.
In order to break an embargo, you need good solid inside information, usually from the team doing the study.
You need to know one or more of the following:
  1. Exactly what the findings of the study will be.
  2. Name of journal.
  3. Date of publication.
1. Is the most important of the three.
We don’t have any good solid inside information on any of the three.
Now say we had excellent inside sources at Ketchum’s DNA project. Suppose they told us some of the details above, that were not supposed to be leaked under conditions of embargo. There is often an NDA that I would have to sign to even gain access to this information. Now suppose I went ahead and violated my NDA and released anyway, the usual reason being to get a jump on competitors by breaking the story early.
Then I would be violating the embargo.
Nevertheless, this sort of thing goes on all the time nowadays. Papers are rarely pulled as a result of embargo breaks, and reporters or even sources are rarely even disciplined. The papers that break the embargo are generally not sanctioned either. It’s a case of a hard rule that gets broken all the time, generally for the reason of competing with other news sources.
What might happen is that you find yourself cut off from your sources in the future.
As you can see, I am not breaking any embargo on anything.
Would I do such a thing? If I had an inside relationship with the Ketchum Study and was told not to break the embargo, I probably would not break it.
Final note: Keep in mind that this is all just speculation. We don’t know when the paper will be released, if it will ever be released, or even if it has been accepted anywhere for that matter.

How far apart are humans in nuclear DNA? Any two humans could be anywhere from ~4-24 polymorphisms (or genes) apart on nuclear DNA. I estimate that the Bigfoots are ~555 polymorphisms away from a generic human. Chimps would be ~1,500 polymorphisms away. Any biological material that is ~555 genes away from humans cannot possibly be from a human being, and it can’t possibly be human DNA. There’s no way.

[via robertlindsay.wordpress.com]

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