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Book part
Publication date: 16 July 2015

Latrica Best and W. Carson Byrd

Our primary aim is to discuss the variability that exists in the operationalization of race/ethnicity in research on genetic and biological markers. We employ Stuart…

Abstract

Purpose

Our primary aim is to discuss the variability that exists in the operationalization of race/ethnicity in research on genetic and biological markers. We employ Stuart Hall’s “floating signifiers” of race approach to explain the ambiguous manner in which researchers discuss the links between race and genetics.

Methodology/approach

We examine articles that use race/ethnicity and genetic or biological markers between 2000 and 2013 within three prominent genetic journals. We focused on original, empirical articles only. We utilize various race/ethnic-related search terms to obtain our sample and to categorize how terms were used.

Findings

A total of 336 articles fit our search criteria. The number of articles mentioning race/ethnicity and genetic or biological information increased over the time. A significant percentage of publications base their research on whites only. When discussions of race are included in studies, scientists often use multiple categories of race/ethnicity without much explanation.

Research limitations/implications

We omit non-research articles and commentary for each journal, which could contain important discussions regarding race and genetics. This work highlights how race/ethnicity can vary in application and interpretation.

Originality/value

Our discussion of race/ethnicity as “floating signifiers” adds a layer of complexity to the longstanding debate regarding the importance of race/ethnicity in genetic research. The “floating” nature of race/ethnicity underlines how subjective the characterizations of samples are and how possible interpretations of results for groups can impact health disparities research. Given the increased use of genetic data by social scientists, there is a need for more cross-disciplinary discussions on the race–gene relationship.

Details

Genetics, Health and Society
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-581-4

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Book part
Publication date: 16 July 2015

Sara Shostak and Jason Beckfield

This chapter compares interdisciplinary research that engages genomic science from economics, political science, and sociology. It describes, compares, and evaluates…

Abstract

Purpose

This chapter compares interdisciplinary research that engages genomic science from economics, political science, and sociology. It describes, compares, and evaluates concepts and research findings from new and rapidly developing research fields, and develops a conceptual taxonomy of the social environment.

Methodology/approach

A selection of programmatic and empirical articles, published mostly since 2008 in leading economics, political science, and sociology journals, were analyzed according to (a) the relationship they pose between their discipline and genomic science, (b) the specific empirical contributions they make to disciplinary research questions, and (c) their conceptualization of the “social environment” as it informs the central problematique of current inquiry: gene-environment interaction.

Findings

While all three of the social science disciplines reviewed engage genomic science, economics and political science tend to engage genomics on its own terms, and develop genomic explanations of economic and political behavior. In contrast, sociologists develop arguments that for genomic science to advance, the “environment” in gene-environment interaction needs better theorization and measurement. We develop an approach to the environment that treats it as a set of measurable institutional (rule-like) arrangements, which take the forms of neighborhoods, families, schools, nations, states, and cultures.

Research/implications

Interdisciplinary research that combines insights from the social sciences and genomic science should develop and apply a richer array of concepts and measures if gene-environment research – including epigenetics – is to advance.

Originality/value

This chapter provides a critical review and redirection of three rapidly developing areas of interdisciplinary research on gene-environment interaction and epigenetics.

Details

Genetics, Health and Society
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-581-4

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Book part
Publication date: 17 October 2011

Sara Shostak and Miranda Waggoner

As the neurosciences endeavor to explain increasingly complex aspects of human biology and behavior, domains of human life that can only be assessed in social interaction…

Abstract

As the neurosciences endeavor to explain increasingly complex aspects of human biology and behavior, domains of human life that can only be assessed in social interaction become ever more important, if formally unacknowledged, dimensions of scientific research. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 14 researchers who study epilepsy genetics, this chapter examines how neuroscientists encounter ‘the social.’ We find that at the beginning of their careers, researchers are intrigued by epilepsy as a disease of the brain and a means of exploring “the last frontier in medicine.” However, as they begin their investigations, the importance of building social relationships, gleaning the subtleties of seizure experience available only in patient narratives, and engaging with families in the field quickly emerge as important parts of epilepsy genetics research. Some researchers hope for and work toward a day when new techniques or models will allow them to forgo the time consuming, painstaking, and often invisible work of gathering detailed histories, combing through patient narratives, and traveling to field sites to meet with families. However, these accounts make clear that, at the current moment, much of “the molecular work” of epilepsy genetics research is built upon social interactions, relationships, and experiences.

Details

Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-881-6

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Book part
Publication date: 16 July 2015

Laura Senier, Matthew Kearney and Jason Orne

This mixed-methods study reports on an outreach clinics program designed to deliver genetic services to medically underserved communities in Wisconsin.

Abstract

Purpose

This mixed-methods study reports on an outreach clinics program designed to deliver genetic services to medically underserved communities in Wisconsin.

Methodology/approach

We show the geographic distribution, funding patterns, and utilization trends for outreach clinics over a 20-year period. Interviews with program planners and outreach clinic staff show how external and internal constraints limited the program’s capacity. We compare clinic operations to the conceptual models guiding program design.

Findings

Our findings show that state health officials had to scale back financial support for outreach clinic activities while healthcare providers faced increasing pressure from administrators to reduce investments in charity care. These external and internal constraints led to a decline in the overall number of patients served. We also find that redistribution of clinics to the Milwaukee area increased utilization among Hispanics but not among African-Americans. Our interviews suggest that these patterns may be a function of shortcomings embedded in the planning models.

Research/Policy Implications

Planning models have three shortcomings. First, they do not identify the mitigation of health disparities as a specific goal. Second, they fail to acknowledge that partners face escalating profit-seeking mandates that may limit their capacity to provide charity services. Finally, they underemphasize the importance of seeking trusted partners, especially in working with communities that have been historically marginalized.

Originality/Value

There has been little discussion about equitably leveraging genetic advances that improve healthcare quality and efficacy. The role of State Health Agencies in mitigating disparities in access to genetic services has been largely ignored in the sociological literature.

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Article
Publication date: 1 February 2000

Perri 6

It is widely claimed that new developments in human genetics will be instrumental in shaping life over the next century. But how, exactly, might these technologies affect…

Abstract

It is widely claimed that new developments in human genetics will be instrumental in shaping life over the next century. But how, exactly, might these technologies affect developed societies? Do technologies themselves shape society or are technologies such as genetic testing and engineering themselves shaped by social structures? This article looks at the need for futurists to consider the ethical dimensions of human genetics and critically reviews the bodies of thought in this area.

Details

Foresight, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2005

Michele R. Tennant

In the Fall semester of 2001, a new position – Bioinformatics Librarian – was developed jointly by the University of Florida's Health Science Center Libraries (HSCL) and…

Abstract

Purpose

In the Fall semester of 2001, a new position – Bioinformatics Librarian – was developed jointly by the University of Florida's Health Science Center Libraries (HSCL) and Genetics Institute (UFGI). Aims to give an overview of this post.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper describes the development of the position and the services provided.

Findings

Funded by the Genetics Institute and housed in the library, this position was created to meet the information needs of the university's faculty, students and staff involved in genetics and bioinformatics research and study. The responsibilities of the position were in part patterned after those performed via the HSCL's existing Liaison Librarian program. Librarians with only an undergraduate degree in the biosciences can still make an important, albeit usually less complete, contribution in this area.

Originality/value

The University of Florida's Bioinformatics Librarian position may serve as a model for the Information Specialist in Context (ISIC; Informationist; Bioinformationist) in the research arena.

Details

Reference Services Review, vol. 33 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0090-7324

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Book part
Publication date: 25 March 2011

Evan Charney

Political scientists have taken up behavior genetics (BG) at a momentous time in the science of genetics. Momentous, because the science of genetics is undergoing a…

Abstract

Political scientists have taken up behavior genetics (BG) at a momentous time in the science of genetics. Momentous, because the science of genetics is undergoing a paradigm shift [Petronis, A. (2010). Epigenetics as a unifying principle in the aetiology of complex traits and diseases. Nature, 465(7299), 721–727]. This shifting paradigm poses a significant challenge to both the prevailing methodologies of behavior genetics – twin, family, adoption studies – and one of the most noteworthy findings to emerge from such studies, that is, which we can call the principle of minimal parental effects. This is the supposition that the effect of the shared parental rearing environment on the behavioral phenotypes of offspring is statistically equivalent to zero (Plomin & Daniels, 1987). It is not uncommon nowadays to find twin, adoption, and family studies utilized in the study of political behavior (e.g., Alford, J., Funk, C. L., & Hibbing, J. R. (2005). Are political orientations genetically transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99(2), 153–167.); likewise, the principle of minimal parental effects is frequently invoked in such studies (e.g., Mondak, J. J., Hibbing, M. V., Canache, D., Seligson, M. A., & Anderson, M. A. (2010). Personality and civic engagement: An integrative framework for the study of trait effects on political behavior. American Political Science Review, 104(1), 85–110.). As we shall see, the challenge comes from recent discoveries in genetics that are radically transforming our understanding of the genome and its relationship to environment.

Details

Biology and Politics
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-580-9

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Book part
Publication date: 25 March 2011

Danielle Boisvert and Jamie Vaske

While the field of criminology is rooted in sociological tradition, biosocial criminology has emerged as a promising perspective in studying antisocial behaviors. This…

Abstract

While the field of criminology is rooted in sociological tradition, biosocial criminology has emerged as a promising perspective in studying antisocial behaviors. This perspective encompasses the research from other scientific disciplines, namely behavioral genetics and molecular genetics. At its core, biosocial criminology views criminal behavior as a function of both the social environment as well as biological/genetic factors. This chapter will provide a description of the prominent methodologies used in behavioral genetics and molecular genetics, a review of the empirical research, an overview of some of the statistical and methodological issues, as well as a discussion on the potential avenues for future research.

Details

Biology and Politics
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-580-9

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Book part
Publication date: 16 July 2015

Callie H. Burt

Heritability studies attempt to estimate the contribution of genes (vs. environments) to variation in phenotypes (or outcomes of interest) in a given population at a given…

Abstract

Purpose

Heritability studies attempt to estimate the contribution of genes (vs. environments) to variation in phenotypes (or outcomes of interest) in a given population at a given time. This chapter scrutinizes heritability studies of adverse health phenotypes, emphasizing flaws that have become more glaring in light of recent advances in the life sciences and manifest most visibly in epigenetics.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on a diverse body of research and critical scholarship, this chapter examines the veracity of methodological and conceptual assumptions of heritability studies.

Findings

The chapter argues that heritability studies are futile for two reasons: (1) heritability studies suffer from serious methodological flaws with the overall effect of making estimates inaccurate and likely biased toward inflated heritability, and, more importantly (2) the conceptual (biological) model on which heritability studies depend – that of identifiably separate effects of genes versus the environment on phenotype variance – is unsound. As discussed, contemporary bioscientific work indicates that genes and environments are enmeshed in a complex (bidirectional, interactional), dynamic relationship that defies any attempt to demarcate separate contributions to phenotype variance. Thus, heritability studies attempt the biologically impossible. The emerging research on the importance of microbiota is also discussed, including how the commensal relationship between microbial and human cells further stymies heritability studies.

Originality/value

Understandably, few sociologists have the time or interest to be informed about the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of heritability studies or to keep pace with the incredible advances in genetics and epigenetics over the last several years. The present chapter aims to provide interested scholars with information about heritability and heritability estimates of adverse health outcomes in light of recent advances in the biosciences.

Details

Genetics, Health and Society
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-581-4

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Article
Publication date: 11 September 2007

Graeme Currie, Rachael Finn and Graham Martin

The purpose of this paper is to examine power asymmetries in the delivery of genetics healthcare that inhibit knowledge sharing across sector, organisational and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine power asymmetries in the delivery of genetics healthcare that inhibit knowledge sharing across sector, organisational and professional boundaries.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is a longitudinal comparative case study approach, which encompasses semi‐structured interviews and observation.

Findings

The paper finds politics to be significant in its influence on knowledge sharing across sector, organisational and professional boundaries, but this can be mediated by attending to human and social aspects of the context in which knowledge sharing was expected to take place.

Research limitations/implications

The paper encourages research that evaluates the effect of increased emphasis on human and social aspects of organisational change in pursuit of the “dream” of spanning boundaries and improving knowledge sharing within the NHS.

Practical implications

The paper shows that structural change appears to be of limited effect in promoting knowledge sharing. Organisational and individual development, career management and performance systems are worthy of attention for the purpose of managing knowledge.

Originality/value

The paper exposes this assumption as managerialist. Policy‐makers assume that professionals are willing and able to share knowledge when delivering healthcare through networks.

Details

Journal of Health Organization and Management, vol. 21 no. 4/5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1477-7266

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