A newly-published scientific paper has called into question a number of elements surrounding the controversial Atacama 'alien' DNA study. The research, which made headlines earlier this year, saw scientists extract genetic material from the body and subsequently determine that the unusual appearance of the remains was due to an array of odd mutations. Soon after the findings of the study were published, the researchers behind the effort were heavily criticized by the Chilean government for what they argued were ethical issues involving the testing of human remains that had been improperly taken from the country.
Those concerns were echoed and amplified this week with the publication of an analysis of the original research which contends that there were a number of problems with the work. Specifically, the scientists looking at the study say that the researchers erred in their initial interpretation that the body's condition was particularly unique. On the contrary, they posit that the body's odd-looking head and missing ribs appear to be consistent with normal fetal development. And, by failing to recognize this, the paper charges, the researchers proceeded down an "unnecessary and unethical" scientific path.
This new paper strongly suggests that the researchers behind the study breached archaeological as well as scientific ethics. Pointing to a 2003 study which confirmed that the 'alien' was actually a person, the review reasons that, upon that confirmation, "analysis should have stopped and her body should have been repatriated to Chile." Beyond that, they also note that there are regulations in Chile which state that "any study by foreign research groups using Chilean materials" must include someone from the country as part of the team.
According to the review, the lack of such a researcher on the study as well as the damage done to the body during DNA extraction both appear to have violated Chilean law. That said, it seems unlikely that the scientists behind the study will face any consequences from the government of Chile for their actions. Nonetheless, the powerful peer review published this week casts the group in a particularly devastating light when it comes to the court of public opinion.