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Genomics & Society
Exploring the societal aspects of genomics research
Genomics holds great promise, but it also confronts us with new questions.
A vital part of Genome BC’s mission and strategy is our continued commitment to explore the societal aspects of genome sciences research. One way we do this is through supporting genomics-related social science and humanities research, which Genome Canada calls “GE³LS” research (short for “genomics-related ethical, economic, environmental, legal and social aspects”).
This area of research doesn’t just focus on genomics’ impact on society once the scientific research is complete; through collaboration, it also aims to inform on the societal dimension of scientific research questions, research design and funding allocation – to help genomics research produce social benefits and achieve public value.
Using a range of disciplinary perspectives and methods, social science and humanities researchers can examine stakeholder interests, public values, economic issues and policy developments associated with genomics, and help anticipate potential risks and benefits as scientific research projects develop.
As genomics-based discoveries begin moving into application – new research tools, diagnostics and therapies, biofuels, etc. – social science and humanities research can also help identify and understand the goals of users and other interested communities, and how these views may be integrated into existing systems, such as health care and resource management.
Genome BC is a leader in this area. We manage both integrated and independent genomics-related social science and humanities research projects.
Types of questions a social science and humanities researcher might ask:
- What sorts of needs and interests are addressed by new developments in genomics?
- Which stakeholders are involved as creators, investors, users, consumers,
- How do different technical developments compete with each other (e.g., ‘open source’ versus ‘patented’ models)?
- Are there regional and national, social and cultural differences in the ways that scientific research is developed and used?
- What are the relevant policy issues and regulatory tools?
- How will the scientific and technical developments be assessed? Will the research be economically feasible?
Genome BC’s Genomics & Society Advisor
Genome BC’s Advisor position – always filled by someone with expertise in social science and humanities – builds on Genome BC’s leadership in social science and humanities research in genomics in a number of ways:
- investigating and advising on the ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social issues and research associated with genomics science projects
- strengthening and promoting genomics-related social science and humanities research in BC
- building dialogue and collaboration among scientists, social scientists, humanists, and stakeholders in addressing the social impacts of genomics
- promoting the uptake of knowledge from the social science and humanities in the funding of genomics research