'Paper of the year' winner announced

December 18, 2003

Results of a search for the most important biomedical research papers of the past year are announced in this week's issue of THE LANCET. The Lancet's 24-member International Advisory Board put forward the nominations-which could be from any source, not just THE LANCET. The winning paper, chosen by the journal's editors, is:

Noah A Rosenberg (Program in Molecular and Computational Biology, University of Southern California) and colleagues' article Genetic structure of human populations, published in Science on Dec 20, 2002.

The nominator of this paper commented: "The paper by Rosenberg et al has two messages of utmost importance: one general biological, even humanistic, and one methodological. The general biological lesson is that the overwhelming source of human genetic variation is between individuals and not between ethnic groups. In the paper this becomes even clearer by the finding that there are no absolute genetic differences between ethnic groups: the differences that exist are in relative frequencies only. The methodological lesson is that for genetic risk assessment it follows that investigators can use standard epidemiological study designs, provided self-reported ethnic background is taken into account: for such risk assessment one should not worry about 'genetic admixture'. The most enlightening aspect of the paper, however, is the insight that it gives in the 'Genetic structure of human populations'-the very title of the paper."

Noah A Rosenberg said: "In working on this project, we were very fortunate to have had access to an excellent collection of genetic samples from around the world. Our work is only an initial step towards understanding the relationship between population ancestry and genetic disease. We hope that future collaborations can link anthropology and genetics to make advances in medicine." (quote by e-mail; does not appear in published paper).

Other nominated papers included the identification of the SARS coronavirus (Lancet), a vaccine trial of the human papilloma virus (New England Journal of Medicine), and the Million Women Study highlighting the increased risk of breast cancer from combination hormone replacement therapy (Lancet).

Lancet Editor Richard Horton comments: "No existing prize in science or medicine recognises the vital importance of multi-disciplinary collaboration - this is a fatal flaw in, for example, the Nobel awards. With this prize, we aim to salute truly first-class advances in thinking or practice which would otherwise go unnoticed by the contemporary establishment of science".
-end-
Contact: Lancet Press Office, 32 Jamestown Road, London NW1 7BY, UK;
T) 44-207-424-4949/4249;
E) pressoffice@lancet.com

For a copy of Dr Rosenberg's winning paper please contact: Christina Smith, Communications Officer, Science magazine, Office of Public Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA;
T) 202-326-7088;
E) ccsmith@aaas.org

Dr Noah A Rosenberg, c/o University of Southern California News Service;
T) 213-740-2215;
F) 213-740-7600;
E) uscnews@usc.edu

Lancet

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