November 19, 2019 | Forensic Genomics for Investigators Panel

Wednesday, November 19

Time and Location to be confirmed.

Science & Justice Visiting Scholar and UC Santa Cruz Anthropology Alum, Cris Hughes, reunites academics and forensic technicians to discuss historical and current field training to better understand genomic technological applications, the problems and limits of interpretation, the resources available, and the incentives technicians face tied to case resolution.

Looking at police and lay perceptions of race, ancestry, and physical appearance, as well as the caveats with new genetic tools like HIrisPlex and Parabon’s® Snapshot® that are being incorporated into case investigations at an alarming rate, this event follows the outcomes of the recently launched Forensic Genomics for Investigators course first offered for California investigators through P.O.S.T. November 12, 2019 here in Santa Cruz.

Cris Hughes is a forensic anthropologist interested in perceptions of race, and the use of ancestry in both forensic investigations and the practice of forensic anthropology. Cris uses genetic and skeletal data to study estimates of ancestry in present day Latin American populations and is particularly interested in how ancestry as a piece of information drawn from the body, can impact the identification process of that person. As an Assistant Clinical Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cris has lectured at  annual Genomics for™ workshops (e.g. Genomics for™ Teachers, Genomics for™ Judges, Genomics for™ Prosecutors, and Genomics for™ Police) since 2013 as an outreach affiliate for the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the UIUC. Recently, Cris’ work with ancestry is centered around the deaths of migrants along the US-Mexico border. Cris is a visiting scholar with the UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, and UC Santa Cruz Anthropology alum.

Bridget Algee-Hewitt (Senior Research Scientist, Humanities and Sciences Interdepartmental Programs, Stanford) is a biological anthropologist who studies skeletal and genetic trait variation in modern humans. Her research combines data analytic and hands-on laboratory approaches to the estimation of the personal identity parameters – like sex, ancestry, stature, and age – that are essential components of the biological profile used in forensic identification of unknown human remains and for the paleodemographic reconstruction of past population histories in bioarchaeology. Concerns for social justice, human rights, and issues of group disparities underlie much of her work. As a practicing forensic anthropologist and geneticist, she provides forensic casework consultation to the medico-legal community.

Co-Sponsored By: The UC Santa Cruz Science & Justice Research Center, the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the UC Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation and the Anthropology Department.

Developing: Debate on ‘Race’ and Genomics

In March 2018, Harvard geneticist David Reich published a New York Times op-ed, entitled “How Genetics is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race.’” In the piece, Reich argues that geneticists “are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.”

The article prompted 67 natural and social scientists, legal scholars and public health researchers to draft an open letter in response to Reich’s claims. The letter, published by Buzzfeed, asserts that Reich misrepresents critiques of of the use of ‘race’ and ‘population’ in biomedical and genetic research.  It urges collaboration between geneticists and their social science and humanities colleagues so that more careful thinking and writing can be brought to bear upon consequential and controversial questions about how human differences should be ordered and understood.

In following weeks and months, a debate took shape. This page will continue to follow this debate. It will serve as repository for related stories and will be regularly updated with new information and new links.

We will pay particular attention to how this debate is playing out differently in different countries.  Professor of Sociology and Science and Justice Director Jenny Reardon, who helped draft the Buzzfeed response, and who just finished a second book on the condition of living with genomes, has participated in this continuing discussion from Germany.  There she is collaborating with historians and population geneticists who are responding to efforts to re-introduce into Germany genetic definitions of human groups.  Since WWII, it has been taboo in the German context to use the term Rasse (the German word for ‘race’) to refer to humans.  However, many major German language media outlets are mobilizing the Reich op ed to argue that this taboo should end.  To give the reader some context for this current debate, in addition to the news coverage, we provide links to relevant academic articles.  We also provide links to coverage in other parts of the world.

In May 2019, Angela Saini published her book Superior: The Return of Race Science. This book takes up questions of scientific racism and its history, as well as its more recent relationship with genetics and genomics. Reviews and responses to the book are also linked and covered here.

 

Resources (updated regularly, last updated May 21, 2019):

Op-Ed and Initial Response:

Reich’s Op-Ed:

 

Buzzfeed response co-authored by natural and social scientists, legal scholars, and public health researchers:

 

Responses in the Popular Press:

United States:

  • Sam Harris, Charles Murray, and the Allure of Race Science – Vox, March 27, 2018
    • Ezra Klein discusses a debate between himself and Sam Harris reignited by Reich’s op-ed, arguing, in short, that “in this country, given our history, discussions about race and IQ need more care and context than they get.”
  • Denying Genetics is Not Shutting Down Racism, It is Fueling it – New York Magazine, March 30, 2018
    • Andrew Sullivan agrees with Reich’s op-ed, and argues that dismissing science as “racist” helps fuel racism.
  • Race, Genetics and a Controversy – The New York Times, April 2, 2018
    • A series of letters to the editor in response to Reich’s op-ed.
  • Scientific Racism Isn’t ‘Back’: It Never Went Away – The Nation, April 6, 2018
    • Edward Burmila argues that Reich’s op-ed is merely the latest example of scientific racism, which is finding new purchase in the current political climate.
  • What Happens When Geneticists Talk Sloppily About Race – The Atlantic, April 25, 2018
    • Ian Holmes argues that biologists’ use of race as a category often reinforces historical biases.
  • Stop Talking about Race and IQ – Slate, April 27, 2018
    • William Saletan reflects on his past as a believer in the scientific validity of racial IQ disparities and argues that “the genetics of intelligence” and “the genetics of race” are, and should remain, separate fields of research.
  • Race Has a Place in Human Genetics Research, Philosopher Argues – Penn Today, May 2, 2018
    • Michelle Berger profiles Penn philosopher Quayshawn Spencer, who uses semantic theory to reconcile US Census racial categories with population geneticists’ ancestry groups and encourages collapsing the former into the latter.
  • Push for Forensic DNA Phenotyping, Ancestry Testing in Germany Raises Discrimination Concerns – Genome Web, May 4, 2018
    • Turna Ray describes the concerns surrounding legislation introduced in the Bavarian parliament that would allow DNA collection from ‘dangerous’ individuals and forensic DNA phenotyping of crime scene samples. Chief among these concerns is discrimination against immigrants.
  • Observations: “Plug and Play” Genetics, Racial Migrations and Human History – Scientific American, May 29, 2018.
    • John Edward Terrell discusses Reich’s book and argues that writing about “populations,” “migration,” and “admixture” reinforces ideas about separate human groups in potentially dangerous ways.
  • James Watson Had a Chance to Salvage His Reputation on Race. He Made Things Worse. – The New York Times, January 1, 2019.
    • Scientists debate the reasons for James Watson’s re-assertion that differences in IQ between “blacks and whites” are genetic.  Is this just an “old man” out of step with his time, or is he part of a dominant but rarely spoken view in genomics, a view that appeared to be bolstered in the spring by David Reich’s editorial in The New York Times?
  • Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps? – The New York Times Magazine, January 17, 2019.
    • Gideon Lewis-Kraus explores how Reich’s ancient DNA work has challenged existing archaeological consensus and transformed the academic landscape. He points out that the pressure to work with the handful of powerful ancient DNA labs, which he calls an “oligopoly,” is strong enough to create a “smash-and-grab” environment of “suspicion, anxiety, and paranoia.” Lewis-Kraus also characterizes this as setting up a divide between “those [like Reich] bewitched by grand historical narratives… and those who wearily warn that such adventures rarely end well.” He thoughtfully explores the practical agendas of racialized histories and forms of knowledge that claim to say who people “really” are and where they are “really” from, describes some of the scientific concerns and broader controversy surrounding ancient DNA research in particular, and ultimately connects the claims in Reich’s op-ed to his “broad brush” view of history.
      • Response: Letter in response to Jan. 17 article in The New York Times – David Reich, January 19, 2019
        • Reich responds to Lewis-Kraus, admitting that ancient DNA research faces unresolved ethical issues but also arguing that Lewis-Kraus misapprehends the rigor and nuance of the science to make his argument. Reich argues that his research has “rendered racist and colonialist narratives untenable.”
  • Genetics and Race: How Do We Have This Awkward Conversation? – Genetic Literacy Project, February 13, 2019.
    • Patrick Whittle argues that “genetic facts — including evidence of genetic differences between racial populations — carry no necessarily social or political implications,” and that confirmation of human difference may aid in designing policies to reduce inequalities. He also suggests that human geneticists should acknowledge the history and politics of ideas of race and understand the motives of what he calls “the opposition.”

Germany:

Switzerland:

Austria:

United Kingdom:

  • The Unwelcome Revival of ‘Race Science’The Guardian, March 2, 2018
    • Writing several weeks prior to Reich’s op-ed, Gavin Evans describes race science as “debunked” and notes how race science is taken up by the alt-right and defended as “standing up for uncomfortable truths.”
  • How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the pastBBC News, April 12, 2018
    • A BBC reporter asks Reich about Buzzfeed response.  Rather than responding to substance to the critique, Reich says he is “very pleased to be part of introducing this discussion.”
  • Neanderthals, Denisovans and Modern Humans – London Review of Books, September 13, 2018
    • Steven Mithen reviews Reich’s Who We are and How We Got Here. He notes that ancient DNA research has “implications for the politics of the present,” mentions the Buzzfeed-published response to Reich’s treatment of race. Ultimately, he argues that population genomics, while illuminating, ultimately stand on equal footing with culture and beliefs as ways of defining ‘who we are.’

France:

Korea:

  • Race, Genetics and Us – Korea Times, March 30
    • Jason Lim questions Reich’s optimism about the ability of society to not ‘weaponize’ findings about race and genomics.

Canada:

  • Opinion: Is ‘Race” a Made-Up Label?The Globe and Mail, April 14, 2018
    • Margaret Wente defends Reich for “expanding the range of what is sayable on a topic that is explosive, uncomfortable, and also increasingly inescapable.”
  • Why Your DNA Test Won’t Reveal the Real You – The Globe and Mail, May 4, 2018
    • Timothy Caulfield argues that race is a “biological fiction” and that attempts to attach genetics to human classification, as exemplified by genetic ancestry testing, tend to reify and legitimate racist perspectives.

India:

  • The Science is ComingIndia Times Magazine, April 5, 2018
    • Razib Khan compares Reich’s op-ed to “tossing a grenade into the public square,” but defends his work and his book as not controversial, but “wondrous.”

 

Race and Genomics Debates in the U.S. and Germany:

 

Superior: The Return of Race Science  – Angela Saini, May 21, 2019
  • Why Race Science is on the Rise Again – The Guardian, May 18, 2019
    • Angela Saini describes her new book, Superior: The Return of Race Sciencewhich focuses on the renewed growth of “intellectual racism” and its ties to global right-wing populist movements. She traces race science back to modern science’s earliest days, highlights its inherently political nature, and expresses concern for its growing acceptance in mainstream scientific publications.
  • The Disturbing Resilience of Scientific Racism – Smithsonian Magazine, May 20, 2019
    • Ramin Skibba reviews Saini’s book, drawing on W.E.B. Du Bois to argue that the “problem of the color line” has persisted in the 21st century and taken root in the field of genetics. He highlight’s Saini’s insistence on both keeping the study of race, a social construct, out of genetics research and studying race responsibly in other disciplines.
  • Medical Controversies – Start the Week, BBC Radio, May 21, 2019
    • Andrew Marr discusses a number of medical controversies with guests, including Angela Saini. Saini discusses her new book, and the panel discusses how race science has made a return to the mainstream. The program also deals with gender bias in medical research and with how personalized medicine reproduces existing inequalities.
  • Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini – review – The Guardian, May 27, 2019
    • Alok Jha writes, “This is an urgent, important book.” He observes that racialized science has proceeded “in the name of academic freedom to conduct dispassionate inquiry into the human condition” and notes the book’s timeliness amid the resurgence of white supremacist and authoritarian movements.
  • Superior by Angela Saini – are we all created equal? – Financial Times, May 29, 2019
    • Clive Cookson favorably reviews Saini’s new book but objects to the suggestion that “scientists refrain from investigating the genetic basic of human variation in intelligence and intellectual ability.” He suggests that this research is important to science’s attempts to understand “the brain,” as long as it is “conducted with proper safeguards.”
  • Why Do So Many Researchers Still Treat Race as a Scientific Concept? – Slate, May 30, 2019
    • Tim Requarth calls Saini’s book “damning” and says that she is not simply pointing out the abuse of science for racist political ends, but is telling a “complex and surprising story about the relationship between science and race today, one that is sure to challenge anyone who thinks these ideas are only kept afloat by avowed racists.” Requarth specifically mentions David Reich’s op-ed as an example of racialized science.
      • Requarth ends with a salient point for Science & Justice: “Scientists are required to take ethics courses, but these courses tend to focus on the ethical behaviors of scientists and the ethical ramifications of science. In other words, we consider how science percolates out of the lab and into the broader culture. What we tend not to address is how the broader culture finds its way back into the lab to influence our science. A small step would be for us to spend more time thinking not only about how our science shapes society, but also how society shapes our science. (After reading Saini’s books, I suggested we add such a section to the ethics course my department offers.) The best scientists relentlessly question their own scientific assumptions. It might make for even better science if they used this same self-awareness to question their cultural ones.”

 

May 16, 2018 | Assembling Precision Medicine

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
1:30-3:30pm
Engineering 2, Room 599

 

Join S&J Visiting Scholars Declan Kuch and Matthew Kearnes in an informal discussion on how proponents of the bio-nano sciences, centered around polymer chemistry, have promised a new generation of targeting agents that will carry drug payloads to diseased cells with greater accuracy. Alongside these promises, proponents of precision medicine have sought to build new knowledge about health and illness through massive new databases that combine multiple ‘-omics’ with lifestyle and chemical exposure data. Much has already been written speculating about both the efficacy and social effects ‘downstream’ of these sciences, especially the likely consequences of precision medicine in domains of socio-economics, race and disability (Juengst et al., 2016; Meagher et al., 2016).We instead seek to discuss how these critiques are (or are not) affecting laboratory designs, practices, and methods, starting with a discussion of critiques of bio-nano science (Torrice, 2016; Wilhelm et al., 2016). How can bio-nano science and precision medicine practically address their critics in such disciplines as public health and sociology dismissing them as expensive indulgences to benefit mostly rich white people? What role can data sharing play in building public support? How can the open science ethos of bio-nano and much precision medicine research translate into public benefit considering the expanding ‘pharmaceuticalisation’ of illness (Dumit, 2012) and rising drug prices?

Declan Kuch is a Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and Languagues at UNSW. His research is situated between the fields of Science and Technology Studies and Economic Sociology. He has published on topics including public engagement with science and technology, precision medicine, energy and climate policy, and the sharing economy. He is the author of ‘The Rise and Fall of Carbon Emissions Trading’ (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015) and loves riding bikes.

Matthew Kearnes is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, a CI with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science & Technology (CBNS) and member of the of Environmental Humanities Group at the School of Humanities and Languages, University of New South Wales. Matthew’s research is situated between the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS), human geography and contemporary social theory. His current work is focused on the social and political dimensions of technological and environmental change, including ongoing work on nanotechnology, precision medicine, geoengineering and the development of negative emission strategies to anthropogenic climatic change. He has published widely on the ways in which the development of novel and emerging technologies is entangled with profound social, ethical and normative questions. Matthew serves on the editorial board Science, Technology and Society (Sage) and is an associate editor for Science as Culture (Taylor & Francis). Matthew is also co-convenor of the 4S 2018 conference, to be held in Sydney in August 2018.

References

  • Dumit J. (2012) Drugs for life: how pharmaceutical companies define our health, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Juengst E, McGowan ML, Fishman JR, et al. (2016) From “personalized” to “precision” medicine: the ethical and social implications of rhetorical reform in genomic medicine. Hastings Center Report 46: 21-33.
  • Meagher KM, McGowan ML, Settersten RA, et al. (2016) Precisely Where Are We Going? Charting the New Terrain of Precision Prevention. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics.
  • Torrice M. (2016) Does Nanomedicine Have a Delivery Problem? ACS Central Science 2: 434-437.
  • Wilhelm S, Tavares AJ, Dai Q, et al. (2016) Analysis of nanoparticle delivery to tumours. Nature Reviews Materials 1: 16014.

Genomics and Society Graduate Research Fellowship

UC Santa Cruz’s Sociology Department is pleased to announce a new graduate research Fellowship in Genomics and Society. Offered by the Sociology Department, the Science and Justice Research Center and the Genomics Institute with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the GSGRF funds students interested in research at the interface of genomics and society. Today, genome scientists and social scientists at UCSC work together to create a scientifically and socially robust form of genomics that is responsive to the widest range of lives. The fellowship supports research in this unique interdisciplinary environment.

The fellowship includes a graduate student fellowship stipend at a graduate student researcher rate plus a research allowance of $800 per year to cover supplies and travel to one relevant academic meeting or research site. The fellowship is guaranteed for the first year, and it may or may not be renewed for subsequent years.

Eligibility: To qualify for this fellowship, you must be an applicant to the UC Santa Cruz Sociology Department (deadline: December 10), and a US citizen or permanent resident. We especially encourage members of the following underrepresented groups to apply: African American, Native Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaskan, Hispanic, Latina/o, and Chicana/o.

Selection criteria: The Genomics Institute in consultation with the Sociology Department will select fellows based on responsiveness to the goals of the RMI program, the academic record of the applicant, and the potential impact of the students’ research our understanding of the relations between genomics and society. (For more information on the RMI program see http://cbse.soe.ucsc.edu/diversity/rmi)

Application process: Students will be nominated for the fellowship through their Sociology application. Students have the option of discussing their proposed area of research in genomics and society in the Personal Statement.

For more information about the Fellowship program, please contact the RMI fellowship director, Zia Isola (email: zisola@ucsc.edu; phone: 831-459-1702).