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PROTEINS: Structure, Function, and Genetics Suppl 3:1 (1999)
Third Meeting on the Critical Assessment of Techniques
for Protein Structure Prediction
This issue of Proteins: Structure, Function, and Genetics
contains papers and commentary arising from the Third
Meeting on the Critical Assessment of Techniques for
Protein Structure Prediction, more familiarly known as
CASP3, held in Asilomar, in December, 1998. The vigor of
the protein structure prediction field is shown clearly by
the intense interest and high level of participation—
increased in almost every category over CASP2—that
CASP3 has generated, as well as by the enormous amount
of work invested by those who organized the meeting and
evaluated the submissions. PROTEINS is proud of the
part it has played in bringing hard data about structure
prediction into the literature.
Success in a CASP3 prediction category has become an
important criterion for validating a method, and the
pressure that groups feel to do well (that is, to get the right
answer) is intense. Informal evidence indicates, for example, that NIH study sections take CASP performance
very seriously in evaluating grant proposals. We must all
remember that the statistics of small numbers are at work
here, so that any particular method might fare quite
differently when faced with a different set of targets. Even
the nature of a correct answer is elusive. Different pro-
grams to calculate the secondary structure from a set of
coordinates may only demonstrate 70% agreement. Yet
there is often an unspoken assumption that secondary
structure composition of a protein is a quantity that can be
absolutely defined. It will be counter-productive if fear of
failure inhibits groups from tackling difficult targets, from
testing risky methods, or from being adventurous in any
other way, in future versions of CASP. It will be foolish if
CASP performance alone is used to determine the future of
any particular methodological development.
Those who bore the brunt of the work for CASP3 will be
thanked elsewhere, but a few words here are necessary. At
PROTEINS, Managing Editor, Stacie Yuhasz and Editorial Coordinator, Starlene Murray worked enormously
hard on this issue, and it could never have come together
without them. John Moult, who is the President of CASP,
must receive special thanks here, because he did much of
the editorial work necessary to produce this issue, as well
as contributing substantially to its content. He worked
with enormous energy and effectiveness. I hope you enjoy
this issue as much as I have.
Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.
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