GENEALOGY-DNA-L ArchivesArchiver > GENEALOGY-DNA > 2007-10 > 1192821319
From: Kimberly Tallbear <>
Subject: [DNA] Response to genetic genealogists from authors of Oct. 19thScience article
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2007 12:15:19 -0700
Dear Genealogy-DNA-L subscribers,
Please excuse the long post. I haven't been on list for a while, but
as a co-author of yesterday's Science article, "The Science and
Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing,"
I wanted to post something more in-depth about our perspectives as
authors on the public investment in genetic ancestry tests.
Based on our collective field work experience in the fields of
biological, medical, and cultural anthropology, science studies,
bioethics, epidemiology, and law, we do not feel that most consumers
are very educated about the limitations of the science behind the
tests, and then what one should draw socially, culturally, and
historically from the science. We originally had language in the
article that noted the expertise of genetic genealogists such as some
of you on this list. (My interactions on this listserv taught me well
that there is a good deal of expertise here.) But with space
constraints the editors cut that language. Our piece was designed to
get the core message of our years of individual research in multiple
disciplines out to the public. Our point is not to attack test users
but to urge companies to do some things differently.
Below is an email response from lead author, Deborah Bolnick, a
biological anthropologist at the University of Texas, to a genetic
genealogist who was unhappy with our article. I've omitted his
original correspondence for confidentiality reasons.
President's Postdoctoral Fellow
Science, Technology and Society Center
and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
On Thu, October 18, 2007 9:06 pm, Deborah Bolnick wrote:
Thanks very much for the link to your thoughts on our Science
article. It may not have made it into the newspaper stories that you saw,
but I and my co-authors were not trying to critique the knowledge or
contributions of expert genetic genealogists (or hobby-DNA researchers, as
you call them). While you and others in this group may not be
professional geneticists, you certainly know as much as many professional
geneticists about this area of genetic research and are involved in
important work that is doing a great deal to advance the field. I agree
that collaborations between professional geneticists and expert genetic
genealogists are indeed where we should be going, and I don't think any of
my colleagues would actually avoid such co-operations due to the fear of
being "scooped". Everyone I know is simply interested in doing whatever
we can to advance our collective knowledge.
While there are many individuals like you who have learned a great
deal about population genetics, the available tests, and the associated
population history, there are also a lot of individuals who take these
tests without knowing much about them. Our Science article was focused on
that group of people because we feel it is important for every test-taker
to have a clear understanding of what DNA tests both can and cannot tell
us. Indeed, the websites that you and other expert genetic genealogists
maintain play a very important role in helping to educate other
test-takers, and my colleagues and I often refer test-takers to the online
community for help in understanding their test results. We originally had
a short paragraph in the Science article to try to clarify this point --
i.e., saying that many test-takers know a great deal about the tests and
human population genetics, but we would like all testing companies and
professional geneticists to do more to help educate those test-takers (or
potential test-takers) who do not have that same knowledge.
Unfortunately, that section was cut by the Science
editor because of space constraints, and my comments to reporters on this
topic may not have made it into their news articles.
I hope this helps to explain my perspective, and I'm sorry that you
perceived our article as being critical of you and other hobby-DNA
researchers. That certainly was NOT our goal. Indeed, my perspective is
the very opposite -- I would like to see everyone who takes these tests
have as much knowledge as you . . .
All the best,
Deborah A. Bolnick, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station C3200
Austin, TX 78712
|[DNA] Response to genetic genealogists from authors of Oct. 19thScience article by Kimberly Tallbear <>|