Michael Eisen

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Michael Eisen
Michael Bruce Eisen

(1967-04-13) April 13, 1967 (age 56)
Alma materHarvard University (AB, PhD)
Known forPublic Library of Science (PLOS)
AwardsBenjamin Franklin Award (Bioinformatics) (2002)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
ThesisStructural Studies of Influenza A Virus Proteins (1996)
Doctoral advisorDon Craig Wiley[citation needed]

Michael Bruce Eisen (born April 13, 1967) is an American computational biologist and the former[2] editor-in-chief of the journal eLife.[3] He is a professor of genetics, genomics and development at University of California, Berkeley.[4][5][6][7][8] He is a leading advocate of open access scientific publishing and is co-founder of Public Library of Science (PLOS). In 2018, Eisen announced his candidacy U.S. Senate from California as an Independent, though he failed to qualify for the ballot.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Boston, Eisen and his brother Jonathan were raised in a family of scientists. Their grandfather was an x-ray crystallographer, their father, Howard Eisen a physician, and mother, Laura[10] a biochemist. They moved to Bethesda, Maryland when Eisen was four or five years old. The brothers spent summers in Long Island with their grandparents. Eisen states that he loved frogs and salamanders '"Even more than I have a frog fetish, I have a swamp fetish. I really like being in swamps."' He was also very interested in math and was captain of the high school math team. Eisen graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 1985. Intending to major in mathematics at Harvard University, he realized that there [he may encounter] other more brilliant math students, it was a Good Will Hunting moment and he decided that he did not want to major in mathematics, '"You don't want to be Salieri to Mozart."' During his years at Harvard, Eisen worked on "unlocking the three-dimensional structures of proteins." He was shown a DNA microarray which taught him a '"new way of doing biology"'.[11]

Eisen completed his PhD at Harvard University in biophysics and a B.S. (also from Harvard) in Math.[12] He was under the supervision of Don Craig Wiley[13] while studying Influenza A virus Proteins.[14]

There are things that are really really difficult, those are the kinds of problems you do want to work on. It's not that easy to tell the difference between impossible problems and a problem that is really really difficult. But learning to do so is critically important. - Things I learned from working with Pat Brown (Patrick O. Brown) - 2015 [13]

After earning his doctorate, Eisen was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University in the lab of David Botstein, where he most notably developed a method for interpreting gene expression data from microarrays. The seminal research publication that Eisen authored about this project has been cited over 16,000 times.[15]

Baseball and biology[edit]

When Eisen lived in Tennessee he worked as a play-by-play announcer for a minor league baseball team,[12] the Columbia Mules. He is a self-proclaimed Red Sox fanatic.[11] He and computational biologist James Fraser recorded a video for iBiology about the role baseball statistics influenced their research. Their argument is that sequencing DNA is similar to scoring a baseball game, and that many computational biologists learned to think about science computations from an obsessive interest in baseball stats. The exercise of comparing a specific player's stats to a database of other similar players allows a baseball fan to predict future performance. This same system works with proteins and predicting functions. As tools are developed that break down and track all stats concerning baseball players, so will technology improve with genetics. With both baseball and genetics, tools are being developed that refine the models.[16] In a lecture in 2015, Eisen stated that he received a computer from his grandfather for his twelfth birthday and spent the next five years teaching himself how to program so that he could keep track of baseball stats.[13]


His academic research focuses on the evolution of gene regulation.[17][18][19][20] Despite this focus, Eisen's work has historically spanned very diverse disciplines. For example, his 5 most cited papers cover a broad range of topics including methods for hierarchical clustering,[17] applications to human breast cancers (with David Botstein and Charles Perou),[6] and discovery of tumor subtypes in diffuse large B cell lymphoma (with Ash Alizadeh and Louis Staudt).[18] His more recent research work has been on fruit flies and Drosophila[21] and how they "develop from a tiny single-celled egg to a mature adult. He says they hold insights into what goes wrong in people as they age."[12] He receives funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for his research.[21]

2018 U.S. Senate race[edit]

Eisen announced through Twitter on January 25 his intent to run for U.S. Senate from California in 2018 for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein's seat, registering the Twitter handle SenatorPhD.[22] His campaign slogan was "Liberty, Equality, Reality". Eisen's reasons for running for Congress included his perception that the Trump administration was unresponsive to climate change and other science-related issues. Another reason Eisen decided to run was his experience watching Cabinet appointees being interviewed by the Senate about climate change. He thought '“It would be really nice to have scientists ask the questions of the Cabinet appointees, because the senators don’t seem to understand the issue and aren’t asking the right questions.”'[12] He feels that if science is to be on the forefront of policy making, '"scientists need to run for office."' He felt that 2018's California jungle primaries afforded him a better chance at making the final two for the general election, but he did not make the final two (which were Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León).[12]

For a really long time, scientists have watched political processes erode — and have watched politicians openly deride science, dismissing the role that science plays in our everyday life. Scientists have been sitting here hoping that someone would come along and defend those principals. Politics, in my mind, should function similar to science. We should try to figure out what’s going on in the world and then debate the best way to do it, to make the world better. The best tools we have to characterize reality are the observational tools that science uses all the time. Too much of politics has rejected that basic principle that scientists live and breathe all the time.[12]

Eisen dropped out of the race when he failed to qualify for the June 2018 primary ballot.[23]

eLife editorship and firing[edit]

In 2019, Eisen was named the second editor-in-chief of the open-access scientific journal eLife. Under his leadership, the journal moved away from the traditional "review, then publish" model, instead requiring authors to submit preprints and then publishing journal editors' reviews alongside manuscripts, meaning that the journal neither accepted nor rejected submissions.[24] Eisen said that the move was intended to reduce the prominence of the publisher, and instead focus attention on authors and their work.

On October 13, 2023, Eisen retweeted an Onion article that criticized indifference toward the deaths of Palestinian civilians during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war. Following criticism from other scientists, including calls for his removal, Eisen, who is Jewish, condemned Hamas killings of Israelis, also reiterating his opposition to Israel's ongoing bombing of the Gaza Strip. On October 23, Eisen tweeted that he had been fired over the posts. Other scientists immediately circulated a petition condemning the decision, arguing that it would create a chilling effect on free speech in academia. The following day, the board of eLife confirmed Eisen's removal, while reaffirming the journal's commitment to continuing the publishing model he introduced.[25]

Open access advocacy[edit]

Throughout his career he has been an advocate for "open science", which is the free release of the material and intellectual product of scientific research. He is a leading advocate of open access scientific publishing[26][27][28] and is co-founder of Public Library of Science (PLOS) and serves on the PLOS board, the Academic Steering & Advocacy Committee of Open Library of Humanities,[29] and is an adviser to Science Commons.

In 2012 Eisen began protesting against the Research Works Act as part of his appeal to promote open access to information.[30]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2002, Eisen was awarded the inaugural Benjamin Franklin Award in bioinformatics, for his work on PLOS and the open-access availability of his microarray cluster analysis software.[31]


  1. ^ Michael Eisen publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ Science News Staff (24 October 2023). "Prominent journal editor fired for endorsing satirical article about Israel-Hamas conflict". Science. Archived from the original on 24 October 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  3. ^ "eLife welcomes Michael Eisen as Editor-in-Chief". eLife. 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  4. ^ "Michael B. Eisen, PhD". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  5. ^ Michael Eisen's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b Perou, C. M.; Sørlie, T; Eisen, M. B.; Van De Rijn, M; Jeffrey, S. S.; Rees, C. A.; Pollack, J. R.; Ross, D. T.; Johnsen, H; Akslen, L. A.; Fluge, O; Pergamenschikov, A; Williams, C; Zhu, S. X.; Lønning, P. E.; Børresen-Dale, A. L.; Brown, P. O.; Botstein, D (2000). "Molecular portraits of human breast tumours". Nature. 406 (6797): 747–52. Bibcode:2000Natur.406..747P. doi:10.1038/35021093. PMID 10963602. S2CID 1280204.
  7. ^ Iyer, V. R. (1999). "The Transcriptional Program in the Response of Human Fibroblasts to Serum". Science. 283 (5398): 83–7. Bibcode:1999Sci...283...83I. doi:10.1126/science.283.5398.83. PMID 9872747.
  8. ^ Ross, D. T.; Scherf, U; Eisen, M. B.; Perou, C. M.; Rees, C; Spellman, P; Iyer, V; Jeffrey, S. S.; Van De Rijn, M; Waltham, M; Pergamenschikov, A; Lee, J. C.; Lashkari, D; Shalon, D; Myers, T. G.; Weinstein, J. N.; Botstein, D; Brown, P. O. (2000). "Systematic variation in gene expression patterns in human cancer cell lines". Nature Genetics. 24 (3): 227–35. doi:10.1038/73432. PMID 10700174. S2CID 1135137.
  9. ^ Cohen, Jon (2017-01-27). "Q&A: Michael Eisen bids to be first fly biologist in the U.S. Senate". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  10. ^ Okie, Susan. "NIH SCIENTIST A SUICIDE AMID PROBE OF PAPER". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  11. ^ a b Mechanic, Michael. "Steal This Research Paper! (You Already Paid for It.)". Mother Jones. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Krieger, Lisa (2017-02-04). "Bay Area molecular biologist Michael Eisen announces bid for U.S. Senate". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  13. ^ a b c "Michael Eisen: Baseball, mathematics and biology". India Bio Science. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  14. ^ Eisen, Michael Bruce (1996). Structural Studies of Influenza A Virus Proteins (PhD thesis). Harvard University. OCLC 48938206.
  15. ^ Eisen, MB; Spellman, PT; Brown, PO; Botstein, D (8 December 1998). "Cluster analysis and display of genome-wide expression patterns". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 95 (25): 14863–8. Bibcode:1998PNAS...9514863E. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.25.14863. PMC 24541. PMID 9843981.
  16. ^ "James Fraser & Michael Eisen: Baseball Meets Biology". Education. iBiology. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  17. ^ a b Eisen, M.; Spellman, P.; Brown, P.; Botstein, D. (1998). "Cluster analysis and display of genome-wide expression patterns". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 95 (25): 14863–14868. Bibcode:1998PNAS...9514863E. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.25.14863. PMC 24541. PMID 9843981.
  18. ^ a b Alizadeh, A. A.; Eisen, M. B.; Davis, R. E.; Ma, C.; Lossos, I. S.; Rosenwald, A.; Boldrick, J. C.; Sabet, H.; Tran, T.; Yu, X.; Powell, J. I.; Yang, L.; Marti, G. E.; Moore, T.; Hudson Jr, J.; Lu, L.; Lewis, D. B.; Tibshirani, R.; Sherlock, G.; Chan, W. C.; Greiner, T. C.; Weisenburger, D. D.; Armitage, J. O.; Warnke, R.; Levy, R.; Wilson, W.; Grever, M. R.; Byrd, J. C.; Botstein, D.; Brown, P. O. (2000). "Distinct types of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma identified by gene expression profiling". Nature. 403 (6769): 503–511. Bibcode:2000Natur.403..503A. doi:10.1038/35000501. PMID 10676951. S2CID 4382833.
  19. ^ Clark, A. G.; et al. (2007). "Evolution of genes and genomes on the Drosophila phylogeny". Nature. 450 (7167): 203–18. Bibcode:2007Natur.450..203C. doi:10.1038/nature06341. PMID 17994087.
  20. ^ Spellman, P. T.; Sherlock, G.; Zhang, M. Q.; Iyer, V. R.; Anders, K.; Eisen, M. B.; Brown, P. O.; Botstein, D.; Futcher, B. (1998). "Comprehensive Identification of Cell Cycle-regulated Genes of the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae by Microarray Hybridization". Molecular Biology of the Cell. 9 (12): 3273–97. doi:10.1091/mbc.9.12.3273. PMC 25624. PMID 9843569.
  21. ^ a b Harmon, Amy; Henry Fountain (2017-02-06). "In Age of Trump, Scientists Show Signs of a Political Pulse". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  22. ^ Reardon, Sara (2017). "Geneticist launches bid for US Senate". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.21381. S2CID 78431422. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Michael Eisen". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  24. ^ Brainard, Jeffrey (20 October 2022). "Journal seeks to upend scientific publishing by only reviewing—not accepting—manuscripts". Science News. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  25. ^ "Firing of science journal editor after Gaza post sparks free speech rift". NBC News. 2023-10-26. Retrieved 2023-11-01.
  26. ^ Eisen, Michael (8 October 2003). "Publish and be praised". Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  27. ^ Brown, P. O.; Eisen, M. B.; Varmus, H. E. (2003). "Why PLoS Became a Publisher". PLOS Biology. 1 (1): E36. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000036. PMC 212706. PMID 14551926.
  28. ^ WIRED Staff. "The 2004 Wired Rave Awards". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2023-08-11.
  29. ^ Howard, Jennifer (29 January 2013). "Project Aims to Bring PLoS-Style Openness to the Humanities". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  30. ^ Dobbs, David (6 January 2012). "Congress Considers Paywalling Science You Already Paid For". wired.com. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  31. ^ "Benjamin Franklin Award - Bioinformatics.org". www.bioinformatics.org. Retrieved 7 February 2017.

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