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Is BetterBred Better?

Discussion in 'Dog Discussion' started by Institute of Canine Biology, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. By Carol Beuchat PhD
    If you haven't already, please read my recent post, "Assessing genetic diversity and relatedness in dogs using DNA", about methods of assessing relatedness and genetic diversity in dogs. In it I present a brief summary of the comments from a paper just published by Nicholas et al. (2018). I also provide some information from a paper published in 2006 by Oliehoek et al. that evaluated several different ways of estimating relatedness. If you missed that, you should read it now or you won't understand the rest of my comments here.
    The method under discussion is used by the genetic diversity test available from UC Davis for dog breeds, breeders should be aware of these potential problems with the accuracy of the test.

    You will have noticed that I presented direct quotes from the two papers noted above. I also provided a direct quote from published response by the authors of the first paper. It's important to note that the critical comments were not my opinion, scientific or even personal; they were from two groups of very well known canine population geneticists. I did suggest that the issues might be resolved with data validating the usefulness of the test, and until that is available I would view the test as flawed.

    At the end of my blog, I made a big point of the fact that scientists have disagreements all the time, and a lot of the progress made in how we understand the world is the product of critical review and the resulting discussions. The concerns are published and the journal allows the other authors to respond. This is a normal and essential part of the scientific process. These are always civil, respectful debates. If you don't take criticism well, a career as a professional scientists is definitely not for you.

    The current debate on the origin of dogs is a great example of various groups of scientists, each with different ideas, duking it out in the scientific literature, one publication at a time. This note in one of the world's most prestigious journals was published in 2013, and the lively debate still continues. I'm sure that sooner or later, we will figure it out and most scientists will come to a consensus. In the meantime, the critical comments of colleagues focus on details, data, assumptions, and methods. There are no personal attacks. Nobody's credentials are questioned. In fact, the scientists that engage in lively debate all know each other, consider themselves colleagues, and are likely to sit down for coffee when run into each other at meetings.

    Science is a community of individuals that are committed to figuring out the truth, even if that means there might be winners and losers in the debate. This is the warp and woof of science, and the debate and process of ferreting out the truth is what I love about it.

    I brought all this up in my blog - and emphasize it again here - because I expected that there might be some members of the dog community that would see the papers and even my blog post as some sort of personal attack on the Davis test. Clearly it was not. But yes, unfortunately, that is how some took it.
    I posted links to my blog in various relevant groups, one of which was the ICB Facebook page. Sure enough, the trolls came.


    This person is associated with BetterBred, a company that is using the Davis test as an online breeding tool. She is known to me, because she has been trolling me for years now, as have a number of people associated with the group at BetterBred. She is not a scientist. She has no comments to make about the substance of my blog post.

    I did try to make my post understandable to any breeder, from the lawyer and veterinarian to the dog groomer. But Laura Bernier notes (twice) that she didn't understand it, so her comments are not about the substance of that blog but are persona; her intent is apparently to sully my reputation. I've been a professional scientist for nearly 40 years, I have a long list of publications, a record of more than $1.2M in grant support, and the respect of my peers. Her belittling remarks will have not effect at all on my reputation, and they don't even keep me up at night, but I am concerned that she carries around so much anger. Stress isn't good for your health, and I truly hope she gets the help that she needs.
    To be fair, I have to say that nobody has been busier with the personal flogging than the person who runs BetterBred, Natalie Tessier Green. I blocked her long ago, but her posts are sent to me by the people that find them offensive or even appalling. This was posted in one of her private groups for users of the BetterBred website and I was gifted several copies.
    Natalie Tessier Green has been trolling me for years. She fosters an environment in her company that normalizes this sort of bad behavior, which is not just unprofessional, but antithetical to the process of science. Comments in Natalie's groups often disparage me; it's very reminiscent of the sort of dialog you would hear between two rival clicks at a junior high school.
    I'm especially disappointed that Natalie Tessier Green didn't have a single thing to say about the concerns expressed about the Davis diversity test, but she does note that "it is wrong on nearly every point". Note that I don't sell any DNA tests. For a time about 2 years ago I took orders from breeders who didn't have enough dogs to qualify for the volume discount, but the price was Embark's and I made no money from it. As the test became more well known, breeders have been able to find enough other people to send in a bulk order so I no longer do this. I do however recommend Embark's test if I'm asked and in my professional opinion that is the test that would best suit the breeder's needs. The ICB Breeder Tool is built around the test results from Embark. But I have no affiliation with them. None.
    I must note here that I am not the only one being trolled. The Dog Diversity Project as well as Embark (which runs their DNA analyses) receive a good volume of hateful Facebook posts from BetterBred. There could be other organizations that find themselves in the crosshairs of BetterBred.
    I'm not bothered at all by the attempts of the folks at BetterBred to affect my reputation, although it does upset people who know me, in both the dog fancy and the scientific community. I am, however, tired of the silly attacks. For each one, I get a flood of copies sent to me from people that spot them and find them offensive enough to bring them to my attention. I have to go delete the post, block the author, and add the comments to my "L&S" folder. Yes, it's gotten tiresome.

    So, I have now decided to address this problem another way. I will post noxious comments made by anybody affiliated with BetterBred, including their clients, on my website. I will be liberal with links to the BetterBred site, so the curious can see for themselves the vitriol directed by BetterBred and their fans towards members of the canine scientific community. If the posts continue, I'll even set up a separate section on the ICB website where they can be catalogued and searched so that they show up in Google searches for BetterBred.
    If anybody at BetterBred has comments about the two papers I blogged about, they should direct them to the authors of those papers, not me; I was not involved with either of them.
    Finally -

    "Not enough people call you out, because you just block them because you truly don't have the ability to have a decent debate."

    No, Laura Bernier, we are not going to have a "debate" this time either. And you now join the others from BetterBred who are blocked and banned for bad behavior.
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