If this issue affects gene researchers, it might also affect others. Whilst the gene researchers have, as a group, decided on a workaround, it would be sensible for MS to allow users to configure Excel to not auto-format when importing files - this way benefitting other users who might otherwise run afoul. Alternatively, have Excel bring up a dialogue box telling the user how to convert the cell type - "Hey, it looks like you might be working with dates in this column. If you wish to convert it to a date format, select the column by double clicking the header and then right click, Format Cells".
Lots of people use Excel for some pretty exotic stuff, including control and automation. That horse has bolted. Some options, clear and well communicated, would seem to be the sensible way forward. Maybe just a choice at install: Are you an accountant or an engineer?