Genetic genealogy is a new and evolving field of knowledge. New information is becoming available all the time and there is a great public appetite for every new insight that DNA can lend to our histories. Importantly, as the field evolves, so does our understanding of the results.
At ScotlandsDNA, we aim to bring this information to our customers as it becomes available, both from published sources and our own significant R&D programme. We also want to work with our customer base to ensure that new information is interpreted in context, and so to involve you on an ongoing basis in the development of genetic genealogical knowledge!
Ours is a new style of ‘hybrid’ enterprise – we are involved in scientific research, historical interpretation of findings, a scientific communication effort, and we are a commercial company with an engaged and demanding customer base.
Communicating complex scientific information to the public is an important and challenging task for all working scientists, in academic research and in commercial science-based enterprises.
The challenges for our genetic ancestry testing companies are considerable: interpretations may not be as clear as they could be, qualifications of what our branch of science can and can’t tell at this juncture may not be conveyed appropriately.
But the challenges are worth meeting. We want our field of science to enjoy the interest and respect of the public, and we want our own business, and others involved in bringing science products to the market, to enjoy longevity.
Our engagement programme
We aim to develop the best historical explanations for our scientific products. We acknowledge these explanations are interpretations and there can be a degree of uncertainty in reconstructing the past. But we will aim to update them based on the latest published and unpublished research from the academic community and our own research programme.
We will engage with customers to:
- Monitor that our products are being understood in context (what they can and can’t reveal, where there are multiple possible interpretations, where future information may change or add to current interpretations etc.)
- Involve customers in the development of future products. For example we will invite customers to assist in developing the level of detail available from the Y chromosome tree, so paving the way to learn more about the past.
To start, we propose the following:
- Ongoing collaboration between our historians and geneticists to develop the clearest explanations of our scientific products
- Periodic customer questionnaires to monitor how customers are interpreting our results and how best to evolve our service
We will engage with the scientific community to:
- Develop and adhere to ‘best-practices’ in both the interpretation of new information and its communication to the public
- Appreciate and communicate to our customers, the latest understanding of interpretations associated with our products
- ScotlandsDNA will participate in academic conferences designed to peer-authenticate and disseminate new findings and interpretations
- ScotlandsDNA will publish findings from its research programme in peer-reviewed publications
- Promote collaboration with academic research groups working on genetic ancestry