STSS extracurriculars

One of my “satellite” activities to STSS coursework has been fairly regular participation in the Genomics Salon — as a participant, session moderator, and most recently as an organizer. The Genomics Salon is a Simpson Center-funded Graduate Research Cluster (2016-17, 2017-18). While initially organized by students from UW’s Genome Sciences department, the Salon has been successful in attracting students from other departments and Schools.

While it’s rare that Salon discussions delve into deep STSS theory or methods, I see the session as reflective of an STSS stance that is critical and questioning of scientific norms and practices. While a few regular attendees, myself included, are part of the STSS cohort, most Salon participants have not been formally exposed to STSS. It has been intriguing to see the sort of natural born questioning of science that people deeply embedded in the science are drawn to.

In December 2016, I moderated a session on my dissertation project. The handout I prepared for the session is available here. It was fascinating to discuss my project with a diverse group of graduate students, including many from Genome Sciences. Some were aware of DTC genetic testing in general, but fewer were aware of the third-party interpretation tools at the center of my research. There was a range of opinions, for support to consumer access of such services to more paternalistic views that people can’t understand them and will be misled. The genomics community is one of the target audiences for my work, in that I think they should least be aware of these lay practices so they can decide if/when to intervene. So it was very useful to present and discuss my work in the Salon venue.

  • Data Science Studies Working Group

I have been an active participant in the UW eScience Institute’s Data Science Studies Working Group (DSSWG) since its inception in February 2016. The group was formed as part of a larger Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant to the eScience Institute to take a multidisciplinary approach to understand what “data science” is and how it is carried out. The group is led by post-doctoral fellow Brittany Fiore-Garland as part of a larger ethnographic project at eScience.

My involvement has included attending, presenting at, and developing and co-moderating DSSWG sessions. I presented at the very first meeting on the theme of Data Privacy, specifically talking on the “inherent identifiability” of genetic information, and what that means for biobanks and other genetic databases that store technically “di-identified” (according to certain regulatory requirements) information. This presentation was a nice example of blending my research staff position at the UW Genetic Analysis Center, where I’m involved in posting “deidentified” genetic datasets to federal repositories, and my Public Health Genetics training about the privacy and other ethical issues such repositories can engender. The other DSSWG I played a more active role in was co-developing and co-moderating a session on “Democratization of Data Science,” with guest speaker Kelly Edwards from the Department of Bioethics and Humanities.