The justification of studies in genetic epidemiology: political scaling in China Medical City

Sleeboom-Faulkner, Margaret (2018) The justification of studies in genetic epidemiology: political scaling in China Medical City. Anthropology & Medicine, 25 (1). pp. 102-120. ISSN 1364-8470

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Genetic epidemiology examines the role of genetic factors in determining health and disease in families and in populations to help addressing health problems in a responsible manner. This article uses a case study of genetic epidemiology in Taizhou, China, to explore ways in which anthropology can contribute to the validation of studies in genetic epidemiology. It does so, first, by identifying potential overgeneralizations of data, often due to mismatching scale and, second, by examining its embedding in political, historical and local contexts. The example of the longitudinal cohort study in Taizhou illustrates dimensions of such ‘political scaling’.

Political scaling is a notion I use to refer to the effects of scaling biases in relation to the justification of research in terms of relevance, reach, and research ethics. The justification of a project on genetic epidemiology involves presenting a maximum of benefits and a minimum of burden for the population. To facilitate the delineation of political scaling, I make an analytical distinction between donating and benefiting communities, using the notions of ‘scaling of relevance’, ‘scaling of reach’ and ‘scaling of ethics’. Political scaling results at least partly from factors external to research. By situating political scaling in the context of historical, political and local discourses, anthropologists can play a complementary role in genetic epidemiology.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2017 16:29
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2023 10:53

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