If you’re looking to keep track of things like in a database, then using Microsoft Excel is one way to go about it. It is a great spreadsheet tool that can be useful when keeping track of things like names, phone numbers, finances, and more, but it seems that no thanks to Excel’s formatting, it is messing up the research on human genes.
According to a report from The Verge, it seems that the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee has issued a set of guidelines for naming human genes. The need for these guidelines comes on the heels of how Excel’s automatic date formatting feature accidentally ended up altering the data by interpreting the data wrongly.
For example, when researchers entered MARCH1 to indicate Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1, Excel thought it was a date and formatted it as such. As a result, the committee is asking researchers to rename some of the genes to prevent future similar accidents.
While it might seem a bit trivial, the implications could be huge. This is because working with corrupted data or data that has been formatted wrongly could set back the research done by the scientists. In fact, a study from 2016 actually found that out of 3,597 papers that were published, about a fifth of them have been affected by these Excel formatting errors.