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Never work without a net: why units matter

I've been working on measurement and units in synthetic biology for more than five years now, so it would seem that I should have a pretty clear understanding of the landscape. As you, dear reader, may recall, for a long time I've been arguing in favor of getting independently calibrated units into our work in synthetic biology, and working on ways to make this generally accessible. Over the past 24 hours, however, I've come across something that has blown my mind. The arguments for having units that you can compare across different experiments, devices, and laboratories have been pretty strong and clear, since yes, of course, we want to be able to compare our work. Many people, however, believe that it's good enough to have relative units, where you measure in arbitrary units and then normalize your data by a known genetic construct control. I have not been comfortable with this, because you have no way to know if something goes wrong that affects your control as well.

Read Beal's full blog post here.

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(Awards #1522074 / 1521925 / 1521759).