Societal Implications of Genomics Research

The overall objective of the Genome Canada and SSHRC joint initiative is to support social sciences and humanities research and related activities that will enrich our understanding of the societal implications of genomic research. It is also intended to help build the cadre of social sciences and humanities scholars interested in pursuing genomics-related research collaborations and facilitate their becoming part of multidisciplinary teams applying to Genome Canada applied research competitions.

@Risk: Strengthening Canada’s ability to manage risk

Sector: Health
Project Leaders: Monica M. Gattinger (University of Ottawa)
Genome Centre: Ontario Genomics
Fiscal Year Funded: 2017-2018

New technologies and innovations offer potential benefits for Canada’s prosperity and wellbeing. Yet Canadians lack trust in government, industry and experts to successfully manage technology risks. At the same time, engaging diverse publics in risk-management decision making is becoming a core imperative of democratic governance. Socially acceptable and scientifically informed risk management frameworks can help to identify, define and mitigate risk, thus strengthening Canada’s innovation potential.

Dr. Monica M. Gattinger of the University of Ottawa, in @Risk, is leading a team of researchers from 10 Canadian universities and one American university. They are examining how best to navigate risk in three key policy fields: public health, genomics and energy. In all three cases, there is a large difference in how experts and the public perceive risk, and the rapid emergence of new technologies makes managing differences in risk definition, tolerance and perception ever more important.

The overall goal of @Risk is to identify conceptual frameworks and mechanisms to strengthen Canada’s risk management capacity, particularly in areas where the public and experts disagree, and to strengthen the means of incorporating diverse views into the risk-management process.  The study will compare risk-management arrangements in six areas, including newborn genetic screening and gene editing for dairy cattle, and use the knowledge gained to assess how to better incorporate public values and relevant evidence into risk management decision making.