Chief Scientific Advisor gets the chop: Getting DNA backwards not the reason

I have been reading a lot recently about the Irish Government’s decision to get rid of its Chief Scientific Adviser. My fellow blogger Maria Delaney has covered this well both on her award-winning Science Calling! blog and on The story is that, due to budgetary cutbacks, the supposedly independent Adviser role is to be given to the head of the government’s own science research funding body. Scientists say that this essentially abolishes the post of Adviser, and worse, creates a “conflict of interest“. It’s all a bit nuanced. Do check out Maria’s blog for the details.

What I do know, however, is that there’s something a little strange with the logo on the Chief Scientific Adviser’s own website. It features an oft-used design based on a stylised DNA sequence. You know, the whole double-helix-image-that-has-become-iconic-within-our-culture thing. Except there’s one problem. They got it kinda backwards…

Take a look. See how it’s twisting? It should be the other way. Imagine the helix as a spiral staircase; with proper DNA, ascending should take you counter-clockwise, and going downstairs should take you clockwise. But that’s not what happens here.

Here’s some of the proper stuff:

Proper DNA (from

Here’s some more:

More proper DNA (also from

And here’s even more:

Purple proper version (from Wikipedia)

But here’s the Chief Scientific Adviser’s version:

Advice-based DNA

Whooooaaaah there, horsey! I guess the question is: “Where has the Chief Scientific Adviser’s office been getting its scientific advice?

Well, perhaps they’re getting it from the same place that these people got theirs:

Crazy Hollywood. You guys!

You see? Even Hollywood gets it wrong sometimes too. So at least the Chief Scientific Adviser is in good company.

Sorry. “Was” in good company.

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  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Chief Scientific Advisor gets the chop: Getting DNA backwards not the reason

  2. Dara O'Riordan

    L-DNA and R-DNA both exist…….
    Looks like CSA and GATTACCA just not naturally occuring.

    • Brian Hughes

      Yes indeed! But the “naturally occurring” form is the “real” and standard visually iconic version…
      Perhaps they are just trying to challenge our expectations!

  3. nothing wrong with this – its like the ‘yer man’ story – when asked the way to tralee he replies – i wouldn’t be starting from here

    so it all depends which way one is looking at it – now me brother…….
    but here comes me bus – be seeing you!

  4. Dara O'Riordan

    Big picture is Ireland is losing its independent Science Adviser….. bad for the knowledge economy and bad for evidence based policy!

  5. the evidence gets in the way of the requisite meaningless claptrap political ‘solution’ – we’ve had this in the UK over ‘alternative’ electrical power generation – hopelessly expensive, not proven as ‘green’ (that’s just the electorate), and dumped as a regressive tax upon those with low incomes

    uneconomic, unfair, no proof of environmental benefit – but it satisfies some international agreement that we paid for

  6. As far as I know, if the DNA -being a molecule- has different stereochemistry (same components, but organized differently in space) then it should also have different properties. This makes it a fairly serious blunder. This is what caused the Thalidimide scandal. Half the molecules in the mixture were mirror images and had different effects for this reason.

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