Webinar on aDNA Research and Research Integrity

Norway’s National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains, in collaboration with Nordic Network on Human Remains, are hosting a webinar on the field of palaeogenetics and the ethical challenges which rise from the study of ancient human DNA (aDNA), with particular focus on collections and data management.

When: 17 November 2022, 10.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m. 
Where: Zoom webinar (registration below). 

”The aDNA revolution” 

The development of aDNA analysis, and the increasing accessibility of technologies and methodologies, have revolutionized the study of ancient human remains. Particularly over the past ten years, the rate of production in this field (i.e. the number of ancient genomes sequenced, the amount of ancient genetic data made publicly available and the number of publications presenting results) has increased dramatically. While the “aDNA revolution” has undoubtedly expanded our understanding of human history, it has also challenged ethical standards by, for example, putting strain on museum collections and requiring the management of complex genetic data sets from specialized fields, with which many institutions have limited experience. This makes it difficult for institutions to assess the impact of the research on their collections when evaluating requests for access to material.   

Furthermore, historic collection practices in the field of physical anthropology have resulted in large collections of human remains, representing a wide range of cultures and time periods, kept in both private and public institutions around the world. The groups represented by these remains, for example indigenous peoples or ethnic minorities, may have strong opinions about the use of this material in research generally, and particular concerns about potential negative consequences of genetic research, but little power to impact the process.  

What criteria should steer the decision-making process? What rights and responsibilities should curating institutions, palaeogeneticists and affected third parties retain regarding both material and data to ensure that aDNA research rests upon an ethically sound framework? 

Introductions by: 

  • Eske Willerslev, Professor and Director, Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen. 
  • Birgitte Skar, Associate professor and curator of Stone and bronzeage collections, Norwegian University of Science and Technology University Museum. 
  • Martin Furholt, Professor, Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University. 
  • Kerstin Lidén, Professor, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University. 

The introductions will be followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A-session. 

Chair: Sean Denham, Osteologist, University of Stavanger and chair, The National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains 

Sign up for the webinar here. Please register through the sign-up website so that we can send you details about accessing the webinar session. The Zoom link with details will be sent you a week in advance of the webinar. 

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