Daniel Falush talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's New Hot Paper in the field of
Article Title: Inference of population structure
using multilocus genotype data: dominant markers and null
D;Stephens, M;Pritchard, JK
Journal: MOL ECOL NOTES
Year: JUL 2007
* Univ Oxford, Peter Medawar Bldg Pathogen Res, Oxford OX1
* Univ Oxford, Oxford OX1 3SY, England.
* Univ Chicago, Dept Human Genet, Chicago, IL 60637 USA.
Why do you think your paper is highly cited?
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of
Because it allows people with a particular data type (AFLPs) to use the
popular STRUCTURE software package, a free software package for using
multi-locus genotype data to investigate population structure. This paper
describes a new methodology.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
People who work on variation in non-model, non-medically important
organisms, typically in the molecular ecology field, often use technologies
for assaying genetic variation that are cheap and informative but contain
some inherent ambiguity. For example, AFLPs. Our paper gives access to more
powerful analysis methods for people using these marker types.
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any problems along the way?
"In the modern world, if people are
not made aware of what is out there and that
it should be valued, then it is probably in
I really regarded this as being service for the community. I personally
work on bacteria and humans, where AFLPs are not used. The paper was
rejected from the journal Molecular Ecology on the unusual grounds
of it being "too short." It then sat in my cupboard for more than two
years. Eventually, they changed the format of Molecular Ecology
Notes (and later changed the name to Molecular Ecology
Resources) to allow methodology papers of all
descriptions—including shorter ones—and this impasse was
resolved. This is my chance to apologize to all those who had to wait for
the new methodology or had to make do with something else before this was
Where do you see your research leading in the
We have been developing methods that use the very rich signals of ancestry
in dense marker data to make inferences about relationships between
individuals and populations that are considerably more detailed and refined
than are possible with STRUCTURE. We can clearly identify and date specific
events (e.g., the Mongol expansion in humans) and identify biologically
informative variation in patterns of gene flow. STRUCTURE represents a
great success in making methods available to a broad community, but
unfortunately it will be a challenge to make these more sophisticated
methods available to those without substantial computing and bioinformatic
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
It is very important that people continue to work on non-model, non-medical
organisms, and that we have a fuller picture of the patterns of diversity
across all of life. In the modern world, if people are not made aware of
what is out there and that it should be valued, then it is probably in
Dr. Daniel Falush
Department of Microbiology
Environmental Research Institute
University College Cork
Keywords: STRUCTURE software package, multi-locus genotype
data, population structure, molecular ecology, biologically informative
variation in patterns of gene flow.