NCRM International Visitor Exchange Scheme (IVES)
On the Use of Genetic Data in Social Science Inquiry: Applications and Methodological Considerations with a Focus on UK and European Datasets (2016 - 2017)
Ben Domingue (Stanford University) visited Melinda Mills (University of Oxford).
Many nations have begun to assemble large datasets combining administrative data, medical records, survey information, and biospecimens (e.g., the UK Biobank). Genetic data, in particular, is of fundamental importance given its role in shaping human development. Use of genetic data requires specialized knowledge and training but has the potential to transform social inquiry. The main goal of this project was to bring together an international team of collaborators to outline a sequence of research activity that capitalizes on the existence of genetic data and to provide training on the use of genetic data (such training is frequently hard to obtain in normal coursework given the limited number of social scientists working with genetic data) for the next generation of social researchers.
The primary aim of the project was to construct a research agenda focusing on the methodological and substantive issues associated with the use of genetic data in social inquiry.
The main objectives were:
- Construction of polygenic scores for a variety of datasets (e.g., UKBiobank, 1958Birth Cohort, TwinsUK, Understanding Society) and outlining a sequence of research projects that rely on both exogenous variation (where available) and important social variation (year of birth, place of residence, etc).
- Consideration of the implications of selection bias, particularly mortality selection, on the generalizability of genetic association studies.
- Training students at in the United Kingdom to work with genome-wide data.