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Hastings Center News

Genomics, Human Behavior, and Social Outcomes: A Discussion for Journalists

New research on genomic influences on human traits such as intelligence, educational attainment, household income, and sexual behavior is newsworthy and of high public interest. But covering the research findings can be a minefield. The findings are prone to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. And they are already being misused by individuals and groups seeking to justify racist and other biases. The need for responsible journalism about genomics research is greater than ever. How should scientists and journalists work together to report on the findings of this research to the public?

The Hastings Center, in partnership with the Center for ELSI Resources & Analysis (CERA), presented an online discussion for journalists, “Genomics, Human Behavior, and Social Outcomes.”  

Transcript for Genomics, Human Behavior, and Social Outcomes A Discussion for Journalists

Moderator: Amy Harmon, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the New York Times covering the intersection of science and society.

Panelist: Erik Parens, a principal investigator of  “Wrestling with Social and Behavioral Genomics” and a senior research scholar at The Hastings Center.

Panelist: Melinda Mills, a genetic scientist at the Sociogenome Project and director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science (LCDS), University of Oxford.

Panelist: Arbel Harpak, assistant professor population health at University of Texas at Austin


This is the first in a series of four online discussions for journalists taking place in the fall of 2021. The 2021 series, Genomics in Society: New Developments, New Questions, aims to inform journalists about the ethical, legal, and social (ELSI) implications of new research in genomics; discuss story ideas on genomics and its ELSI issues; and connect journalists and ELSI experts and resources. The other events in this year’s series are:

  • Law Enforcement and Genetic Data – Oct. 26
  • Precision Medicine Research, “All of Us”, and Inclusion – November 16
  • Addressing Racism in Medical Research and Publishing – November 30

Beginning in 2021, The Hastings Center will offer an annual “bioethics for journalists” discussion series. It is supported by the Callahan Public Programs, named in honor of Daniel Callahan, co-founder of The Hastings Center. The programs are supported by generous gifts from The John and Patricia Klingenstein Fund and The Andrew and Julie Klingenstein Family Foundation. Each year, Hastings will join forces with a prominent partner to bring the most cutting-edge ethical issues in science and health to journalists.

The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.



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