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IRRI Pioneer Interviews--Molecular mapping of the rice genome and being scooped by a woman





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Uploaded on Sep 30, 2009

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In an IRRI Pioneer Interview (, Gary Toenniessen, a managing director of The Rockefeller Foundation and long-time collaborator with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI;, discusses how the Japanese were scooped on the molecular mapping of the rice genome--by a woman!.

"One of our first meetings of the Rice Biotechnology Network was held in conjunction with one of the major rice genetics symposia [Rice Genetics II—Second International Rice Genetics Symposium, 14-18 May 1990 -]. Our meeting took place at IRRI and then we all moved to Manila for the big symposium. Before that symposium, [about a year previously in 1988] Tanksley's group had published its molecular map in TAG (Theoretical and Applied Genetics: Molecular mapping of rice chromosomes, 76:815-829).

The paper [authorship] had come out with McCouch, about five other names, and then Tanksley, the way that most U.S. papers come out with students that do the work [listed first] and then the lead professors name at the end.

In Asia at least at that time, it wasn't usually the way the names came out on a paper; usually the lead professors name was first and then other people listed next. Anyway, that paper came out in TAG and the Cornell group had basically scooped the Japanese group because they had not yet published their genetic map. I didn't realize it at that time, but the Japanese really took that as almost an insult because rice genetics was their field and here was this upstart group in the U.S. that published the first rice molecular genetic map and, at this meeting here in Manila [Rice Genetics II] the Tanksley map was going to be presented by Susan McCouch [see:].

I don't know if you know Susan, but she is a very attractive, tall woman. At that time, her hair went almost all the way down her back. This particular Rice Genetics Symposium was really dominated by Japanese because they were doing most of the work, so, of the about 400 people in the audience, [it looked like] 300 were probably Japanese. Im sure the Japanese thought that the McCouch who appeared on this paper was a white-haired head professor at Cornell University. I can still see the moderator, the person who was running the session, inviting Dr. McCouch to come up and give this presentation of the paper that had already appeared and scooped the Japanese.

Susan McCouch stood up and began walking up. You could just hear this murmur. They just couldn't believe that this young, attractive woman had scooped them. Not only had they have been scooped, but they have been scooped by a woman. That set off what actually turned out to be a very constructive competition with the Japanese. They reinvigorated their efforts to get their map done and published."


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