Health

The future of knowledge?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanApr 24, 2011 6:25 PM

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Matt Ridley has a predictable op-ed in the WSJ (based on our knowledge of his prior normative frame), Your Genes in an Envelope? More, Please. But the last section is interesting:

If freedom does not appeal, the clinching argument for allowing consumers unfiltered access to their own genes is a scientific one. The only way slight genetic influences on health are going to emerge is if thousands of people submit their genomes for testing, and the only way that is going to happen is voluntarily. Academic research projects cannot promise to create the huge databases that an enthusiastic populace applying to an entrepreneurial testing industry can spawn. Genetic knowledge, whether the high priests like it or not, is going to be a crowd-sourced phenomenon.

I think "crowd-sourcing" has limits, but in many areas it will probably be the way of the future because there is a constraint on the labor hours of scholars. This was implicit in Joseph Pickrell's argument in Why DTC genetic testing is good for research. My post Resolutions in the Indian genetic layer cake was based on Zack Ajmal's particular interest in Indian genetics which prompted him to ask for both the Reich et al. and Chauby et al. data sets. Bringing the two data sets into one ADMIXTURE run easily allowed for the resolution of a major question about the prehistory of South Asia. There's was nothing preventing scholars from doing this first, but they are busy people and have a finite number of labor hours that they can devote to the sea of questions which are begging to be answered.

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