Monday, March 04, 2013

Teaching personal genomics - the commercial issues

(Apologies for the long interval of dead air...)

I'm working on the video lectures for my upcoming MOOC Useful Genetics, and I'm stalled at Module 5, on personal genomics.  I know from our preliminary survey that this is something many students will be especially interested in. 

One factor that makes these videos different from the rest is that I'll be discussing services that are provided mostly by for-profit companies.  When I taught this in my face-to-face class, I found that students were particularly sensitive to this -- when I said positive things about 23andMe's interface, or marveled about how inexpensive genetic testing has become, they worried that I might have a commercial interest in the providers.

Another issue is copyright.  I don't think I can use images from commercial providers' pages without their permission, but obtaining such permissions is likely to be a big pain in the butt.

So I guess the solution is to avoid mention of specific providers, and just discuss the general types of services that are available.  Students will want to know how these analyses work, what kinds of information they provide, why consumers might choose to use such services, how to choose a particular provider, and how to interpret the information they obtain. 

The students can discuss specific providers and their services in the forums.  My job is to provide the information and issues that will help frame these discussions.  I think I'll want to explicitly explain this approach in the overview video for this module.