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  Anthropology, Genetic Diversity, and Ethics 
 
 
A workshop at the Center for Twentieth Century Studies 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  
 
 
 
Opening Remarks by Trudy Turner*
[Participant Information]

I'd like to welcome you to this workshop, Anthropology, Genetic Diversity, and Ethics.  The impetus for the workshop came from discussions with Dennis O'Rourke, Mark Weiss, and others at NSF, where there has been a concern regarding the way in which ethical and legal issues are addressed or not addressed in proposals relating to genetic research.  Out of these discussions, Mark Weiss and I began to plan the workshop.  This workshop was designed to bring together researchers interested in pursuing genetic research in diverse populations, with anthropologists, ethicists, attorneys, and representatives of populations, all of whom have some familiarity with the ethical and cultural issues involved in such undertakings. 

As we are all aware, genetic research has expanded enormously in the past ten years, primarily due to significant technological innovations.  As genetic research accelerated, questions arose about the use of diverse population samples.  Researchers are looking increasingly at specific populations to elucidate genetic diversity, to discuss genetics and disease, and to trace human origins and population movement.  While there are multiple and important reasons to expand the study of genetics and diverse populations, there are ethical and social concerns that surround this expansion.  It is crucial for researchers to be familiar with successful research protocols and models for population identification, informed consent, and research outcomes.  These protocols and models may differ from population to population, and will certainly derive from the interaction of all parties involved, including geneticists, anthropologists, and representatives of various communities. 

There is a clear need for multidirectional communication and collaboration.  This is the primary aim of this workshop.  There are multiple projects in human genetics.  We are not here to engage in a debate on any specific project, but to discuss the best ways in which to pursue research.  A goal we share is to maximize the benefits for humanity, while minimizing the risks and upset to individuals in populations.  We are aware that this workshop is not a first step, a twentieth step, or even a hundredth step in this communication process; but it is a step in an ongoing process of dialogue and discussion.  There was a very wide call for participation for this workshop.  Notice of the workshop was sent to all members of the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Association of Physical Anthropology, and the American Association of Anthropological Genetics.  All Ph.D.-granting departments in Anthropology, departments of science and technology, major urban museums and medical schools in the Midwest, were sent notice of the meeting.  In addition, notice of the meeting was available to listservs for bioethics and Native American scientists and engineers.  Participants in the workshop are drawn from all these venues.  We recognize that there may be a diversity of opinion expressed during the workshop.  In order to facilitate all parties being heard, we ask that you please follow these guidelines for the large group discussions.  Comments during the general and open discussion should try to respond to previous discussion.  In addition, no one person should speak more than twice during a single discussion session, and no one may speak a second time until every person who wants to has an opportunity to do so, given time constraints. 

And I want to give you some information on the format of the workshop.  Each session will begin with two to four speakers.  After the speakers, there will be a brief question and answer period -- after all the speakers have finished, we will have this question and answer period.  We'll then break into small groups for additional discussion.  The discussion in the small groups can focus on the material presented by the speakers or on the general questions for the session.  These questions can be used to identify other issues for discussion.  Each discussion group will be asked to identify three points to bring back to the whole group at the end of the small group discussion.  Each group will have transparencies, and you can write out these three points, and they can be presented back when the whole group reconvenes.  Your packet contains more detailed instructions for each small group discussion.  So, basically, the pattern that we are going to follow is presentations, questions, small group, and then return back for a larger group discussion.  All of you have been assigned discussion groups; you can tell by the little colored dots on your nametags.  Your group is designated by the colored dot on your nametag.  There are three dots.  The groups change composition over the course of the workshop: the first dot is for today's sessions, the second is for tomorrow morning, and the third dot is for tomorrow afternoon.  This way, everybody will get kind of mixed up and they will talk to everybody else during the course of this workshop.  Now, I want to let you know that there are also some additional readings that have come in, and those can be found out on the table. 

This is my opportunity to thank some of the people who made this workshop possible.  I want to thank Kathleen Woodward, the Director of the Center for Twentieth Century Studies.  The Center is sponsoring the workshop at UWM, and has been instrumental in insuring its success.  I especially want to thank Carol Tennessen, Patti Sander, and Nigel Rothfels of the Center, for all their help and expertise.  Tony Ciccone of UWM's Center for Instruction and Professional Development graciously spent time discussing the mechanisms of workshop organization.  I would also like to thank the staff of the Anthropology office, Jean Bauer and Christine Ruth, for their continuing assistance.  Many of you have dealt via phone or e-mail with Angela Shand.  Angela is the program assistant for the workshop, and has been a very able right (and possibly left) hand through this whole undertaking.  This workshop would not have happened without her.  I also want to thank all the invited participants in the workshop.  They have given of their time and expertise, and have helped immeasurably in clarifying and refining the program.  I'd also like to thank the Dean of the College of Letters and Science at UWM, the Center for Bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the American Association of Anthropological Genetics, for their support.  The workshop is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. 

I'd like to now turn the program over to Eric Juengst, who will be the chair of the first session. 

*This talk has been edited for web publishing by the author.

 
 
 
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