One in five genetics papers contains errors thanks to Microsoft Excel

Autoformatting in Microsoft Excel has caused many a headache—but now, a new study shows that one in five genetics papers in top scientific journals contains errors from the program, The Washington Post reports. The errors often arose when gene names in a spreadsheet were automatically changed to calendar dates or numerical values. For example, one gene called Septin-2 is commonly shortened to SEPT2, but is changed to 2-SEP and stored as the date 2 September 2016 by Excel. The researchers, who published their analysis in Genome Biology, say the issue can be fixed by formatting Excel columns as text and remaining vigilant—or switching to Google Sheets, where gene names are stored exactly as they’re entered.