Genome British Columbia - Genome Genomics

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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,
    regulators, etc.?
  • 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?

View the Genomics and Society Factsheet.

Looking for Genomics and Society research funding? Click for a list of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council opportunities

Genomics and Society contact:

Kate Harland
Genomics and Society Advisor
Direct: 604 675 1032