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November 1, 2016


Welcome to the Genomics in Society Digest

Genomics in Society: Genomics and its related Ethical, Economic, Environmental, Legal and Social aspects.
This news digest is published by Genomics in Society at Genome Alberta. Feel free to forward to your colleagues.

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A strong voice for science sounds great – but will we all hear it

The UK’s Higher Education and Research Bill proposes to rill seven research councils into one. (Where have we heard this idea before?)This article looks at some of the nuance and complex issues that are behind the bill and the discussion taking place around it.
Source: Science Media Centre

Make America scientific again!

Recent polls in the U.S. indicate that American care more about science than we might think, but when it comes to the Presidential campaign, where did all the science go? On October 17th buried in the mudslinging of the campaign there was actually some discussion about science and politics at a town hall held at Rockefeller University. The big question that can still be asked of the candidates is “What’s your evidence?”
Source: Scientific American

And close on the heels of this article you might wonder why many members of the U.S. science community continue to support Donald Trump. If nothing else he represents change and that alone is enough to get the attention of many voters. By the time the next edition of our newsletter comes out we’ll know exactly how voting went – may the best woman win.
Source: Nature

Mixed results for Liberals on science: A rundown of election promises

During the Canadian Federal Election Campaign in 2015 science was back on the election platform. The Liberals promised a to make evidence based decision and had specific points they would tackle. Evidence for Democracy has done a rundown of the key election promises related to science and made some more detailed comments in the Toronto Star.
Source: Evidence for Democracy

How to communicate with the public about GMOs and related farm technologies

Ask many Canadians what a GMO is they probably can’t tell you. But they’ll quite likely tell you they are bad or bad for you. The problem in perception is both an science gap and a communications gap and this article offers some tips to get your point across if you have to explain GMOs.
Source: Terry Daynard

Combating antimicrobial resistance: A role for international law?

This is part of a series of articles from the Canadian Science Policy Centre leading up to the CSPC Conference in early November. The author digs deeper into the special United Nations General Assembly meeting to address AMR as an emerging public health issues.
Source: CSPC

Helix, the closely watched DNA startup, makes uncertain debut

The new company wants to be a central digital hub for people who want to order DNA interpretations from many different affiliates and partners. Details about how the company will work or its long term plans are fuzzy however so there seems to be a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Why any attention at all to yet another start-up? Helix has $100 million from Illumina and some private equity firms which makes it worth watching.
Source: Buzzfeed

And Stat News noted one of the first services being offered – wine recommendations “based on an analysis of 10 genetic variants in your DNA

Why is a social scientist working at Monsanto?

Many of you might recognize the name Cami Ryan. She has been part of the GE3LS component of project funded by Canada’s Genomics Enterprise but now she is working at Monsanto. This is her take on why she ended up in her current role.
Source: Cami Ryan blog

The kids are all right: Children with 3-way DNA are healthy

More than 15 years ago, 17 babies were born after an experimental infertility treatment that gave them DNA from three people: Mom, Dad and an egg donor. Follow-up studies have shown that they are all developing normally.
Source: Washington Post

LISTEN: Ethics and genetics: opening the book of life

Princeton University Professor Peter Singer, the University of Newcastle’s Professor Jackie Leach Scully, and Professor Julian Savulescu from the University of Oxford join the host of The Guardian’s Science weekly podcast to talk about tinkering with the “book of life”.
Source: The Guardian

The banana as we know it is in imminent danger

The yellow banana most of us pick up in the produce section is a variety known as the Cavendish. As handy as it may be to have a good and popular variety ready to be shipped around the world, it also means that the global supply can be threatened by a singe disease - Black Sigatoka.
Source: The Guardian

The genomic revolution from the Francis Crick Institute

The Francis Crick Institute was founded by six scientific and academic organisations in the United Kingdom and will be fully operational by early 2017. With £650 million invested to get it off the ground the Institute opened its doors this year and the BBC aired a week of programs and features about the biomedical discovery organization. This hour long podcast is part of the BBC’s World Debate series.
Source: BBC
Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

CRISPR: A gene-editing tool to rule them all? Not necessarily

Gene editing has been touted as a technique to treat many diseases and CRISPR is a tool recognized (though not necessarily understood) by the general media and public. But it isn’t the only gene editing tool available. This article looks at TALEN and CRISPR.
Source: Bioscience Technology

What a legless mouse tells us about snake evolution

Writer Ed Yong call this part of his “Cool Science CRISPR Can Do That Has Nothing To Do With Engineering Babies” series. We could say this isn’t the kid of story that does anything for the PR side of gene editing but now that it is in The Atlantic, we’ll see what happens.
Source: The Atlantic

7 Highlights from Nuffield Council’s review on the ethics of genome editing

This post from Jessica Cussins a Program Associate at the Center for Genetics and Society offers a quick overview of some of the key points in the U.K. Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
Source: BioPolitical Times

WATCH: What you need to know about CRISPR

Dr. Ellen Jorgensen is co-founder and Executive Director of New York’s Community Lab Genspace. She is passionate about improving science literacy, particularly in the areas of molecular and synthetic biology and is on a mission to on a mission to explain the myths and realities of CRISPR. This is her 10 minute TED Talk given at the TED Summit in June of this year.
Source: YouTube

And also from YouTube:

What is gene editing and how does it work?
This new short video produced by the Wellcome Trust tackles the technology and the implications – in 4 ½ minutes.

Papers & Features Up arrow

Ethics policies and ethics work in cross-national genetic research and data sharing; Flows, nonflows, and overflows

Hoeyer K, Tupasela A, Rasmussen MB, Science Technology Human Values (October 20, 2016) doi: 10.1177/0162243916674321

In recent years, cross-national collaboration in medical research has gained increased policy attention. Policies are developed to enhance data sharing, ensure open-access, and harmonize international standards and ethics rules in order to promote access to existing resources and increase scientific output. In tandem with this promotion of data sharing, numerous ethics policies are developed to control data flows and protect privacy and confidentiality. Both sets of policy making, however, pay limited attention to the moral decisions and social ties enacted in the everyday routines of scientific work.
Source: Science Technology Human Values

Community health workers: An untapped resource to promote genomic literacy

Allen C, McBride C, Balcazar H, Kaphingst K, Journal of Health Communication Vol. 21 , Iss. sup2, (2016) doi:10.1080/10810730.2016.1196272

Poor understanding of gene–environment contributors to health conditions can lead the public to misinterpretations that overemphasize genetics as determinants of health. The present commentary calls for engaging the national community health worker (CHW) workforce to use community elicitation methods such as mental models approaches as a means to enhance the public’s literacy regarding genetic and environmental or genomic contributions to health. We discuss three needs related to genomic literacy and suggest how CHWs are uniquely positioned to address these needs among diverse target audiences.
Source: Journal of Health Communication

Integrating public health and deliberative public bioethics: Lessons from the Human Genome Project Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Program.

Meagher K, Lee L, Public Health Reports (Jan/Feb2016) Vol. 131 Issue 1, p44-51. 8p. PMID: 26843669

Public health policy works best when grounded in firm public health standards of evidence and widely shared social values. In this article, we argue for incorporating a specific method of ethical deliberation--deliberative public bioethics--into public health. We describe how deliberative public bioethics is a method of engagement that can be helpful in public health.
Source: Public Health Reports

Events Up arrow

Visit Genome Alberta's extensive Events Calendar on our website at GenomeAlberta.ca. Connect With Us to sign up for our newsletters and see the Calendar of Events.

Canadian Science Policy Conference

The annual CSPC is back in Ottawa in November and is one of the best opportunities to hear about new developments in science policy in Canada and discuss the current and future state of science with your colleagues. The CSPC has become Canada’s most comprehensive, multi-sectorial and multi-disciplinary annual science policy forum and attracted numerous politicians and hundreds of professionals from industry, academia, the non-profit sector, federal and provincial governments every year.

When: November 8th – 10th
Where: Shaw Centre, Ottawa

For more information go to cspc2016.ca

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Three days of LGBTQA and STEM speakers, panels, workshops, and discussions on STEM, LGBTQA topics, and the connections between them. The oSTEM National Conference brings together diverse students and professionals from various STEM fields in the interest of professional development and the creation of safe and inviting places to study and work in the sciences.
The schedule includes:
  • Team Building
  • Career and Graduate School Bootcamp
  • Safe Space Dialogue
  • A trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

When: November 11 - 13, 2016
Where: Denver, Colorado

Registration deadline has been extended to November 4th, 2016

Celebrating Women in Technology

Geeky Summit is the biggest celebration of women in technology and entrepreneurship in Western Canada. Chic Geek envisions more women as makers, builders and creators, leveraging technology to change the world. Geeky Summit will bring together inspirational speakers from across North America and provide hands-on, practical workshops so attendees can walk away with the motivation and tools to start changing the world through technology.

When: November 16, 2016
Where: Telus Spark, 220 St Georges Dr. NE, Calgary, AB

More information and details for registration can be found here.

Communicating Public Health Information

Join Canada’s leading health practitioners, communicators, advocates, analysts, and researchers, as they share the latest intelligence and approaches that:
  • Demonstrate how risk prevention and harm reduction increases positive public health outcomes – and saves lives
  • Raise public awareness, stakeholder engagement and government support
  • Conserve scarce public service resources and decrease public expenditure on chronic public health issues and crises
  • Improve public safety and aid at-risk communities

When: December 7 - 8, 2016
Where: Mariott Bloor Yorkville, Toronto, Ontario

For full details of the two-day Agenda and how to register, click here. (pdf file)

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