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Portrayal of Race: How to Explain Differences,
While Emphasizing Common Human Heritage
Francis Collins, Director, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), will be one of the speakers at a 12 November event at AAAS, to consider how new research of genetic differences might change howand whatscience journalists write about race. "Equal but Separate," is sponsored by the DC Science Writers Association (DCSWA).
When President Clinton announced the completion of the Human Genome Project three years ago, he stressed that "in genetic terms, all human beings, regardless of race, are more than 99.9 percent the same." But now the scientific focus has shifted from our amazing similarity to our tiny-but-important differences, as these distinctions might help explain why one person gets cancer while another faces heart disease.
Recognizing the challenges that arise for science writers who don't want to lead readers to erroneous conclusions about genes and race, the DCSWA has invited Collins and other genetics researchers, including Aravinda Chakravarti, Director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and Vence Bonham, Jr., Senior Consultant to the Director on Health Disparities, NHGRI, to speak before an audience of journalists at AAAS, the non-profit science society. AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner will open the program with welcoming remarks.
The organizers of the event note that it will take place against the backdrop of a recently-launched, $100-million effort to analyze genetic samples from people in Nigeria, Japan and China, and the United States. The project, known as the International HapMap Project, will soon produce a new research tool, one that will allow scientists to quickly study genetic variants linked to disease. But this tool will also lead to studies showing that groups with ancestry from different geographic regions (Africa, Europe, Asia) can have differences in the frequency of certain genetic variations. Attendees at the event will discuss how journalists can convey these findings to their readers in a way that explains the science while not losing sight of humanity's common heritage.
The program begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 12 November. Admittance to the program is free, but prospective attendees must RSVP to the following email address by 10 November: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Reservations for the dinner that precedes the program had to have been made by 5 November.)
The Washington DC Science Writers Association (DCSWA) was founded in 1987 as the local affiliate of the National Science Writers Association. Members include journalists working on local or national publications; public information officers from universities, science organizations, and federal agencies; and many freelancers.
DCSWA offers outstanding programs on science and science writing, drawing on Washington's rich depth of scientific and policy organizations. Presidential science advisors, bioterrorism experts, FDA commissioners, NASA administrators, astronomers, biologists, geneticists, and earth scientists address DCSWAand face on-the-record question and answer sessions afterward. Other meetings cover professional development issues, like improving journalistic research techniques, critiquing science papers, freelance job strategies, or getting your book published. For more information, please visit www.dcswa.org.
Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has worked to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publications, in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. AAAS and its journal, Science, report nearly 140,000 individual and institutional subscribers, plus 272 affiliated organizations in more than 130 countries, serving a total of 10 million individuals. Thus, AAAS is the world's largest general federation of scientists. Science is an editorially independent, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed weekly that ranks among the world's most prestigious scientific journals. AAAS administers EurekAlert! the online news service, featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology.
7 November 2003