Last week, PhD student Daphnée Lamarche led us through Marc A. Sze’s and Patrick D. Schloss’s recent paper: “Looking for a Signal in the Noise: Revisiting Obesity and the Microbiome.” We really enjoyed how well-written this paper was; however, we had a hard time interpreting some of the Figures. For example, the text indicates that obese individuals had significantly lower alpha diversity scores in 7 instances in the original studies; however, the colouring of Figure 2 indicates that obese individuals had higher diversity in these 7 instances. Further, the AUC calculations for each study in Figure 4 don’t seem to match the coloured lines observed in the Figure. We spent a long time trying to understand these discrepancies and couldn’t come to an intelligent conclusion- we would love to hear from anyone who could help us understand these 2 Figures better!
More importantly to our group, however, was the message of this paper. We think that this type of study helps in moving the field of microbiome research forward. We hope that this marks the beginning of less descriptive studies with low n-values and instead on properly powered, well-designed studies of the human microbiome.