Is there ever a valid reason for storing bioinformatics data in a Microsoft Word document?

Short answer


Long answer



Yesterday I finished reviewing a paper. My review was generally very positive and I enjoyed reading the manuscript. The authors linked to some supplementary files that were available on another website. As I'm the type of reviewer that likes to look at every file that is part of a submission, I logged on to the website to see what files were there.

The first file that was listed had a 'docx' extension. Someone might argue that if this file contained a textual description of how the other files were being generated, then maybe there is nothing wrong with somebody using Microsoft Word. I would disagree. Any sort of documentation should ideally be in plain text, and maybe PDF as an alternative.

In any case, I opened the file to see what we were dealing with. The file contained a list of several thousand gene identifiers, one identifier per line. There was nothing else in the thirty-six page file.

This is not an acceptable practice! Use of Microsoft Word to store bioinformatics data will only ever result in unhappiness, frustration, and anger. And we all know what anger leads to…