In an effort to foster interdisciplinary research, the National Institutes of Health has launched a free, Web-based educational program to help social and behavioral scientists gain a better understanding of the complexity of the genetic contribution to health, disease and behaviors.
The course, titled Genetics and Social Science: Expanding Transdisciplinary Research, aims to support the integration of genetics concepts in each behavioral or social scientist’s own research and promote collaborative studies with geneticists. According to an institute release:
Because behavioral and social scientists have a very large breadth of expertise, the course focuses on core concepts that are applicable to most scientists, no matter where they are in their careers or training. The course was developed by an advisory committee with experts from a wide range of areas, including addiction, psychiatry, anthropology, obesity, clinical genetics, and race and ethnicity. The core areas are: variation (e.g., sources of genetic variation, biological pathways); gene-environment interaction; population issues; clinical issues (e.g., family history) and research issues (e.g., data sharing). The course was developed based on adult learning theory, which focuses on active learning and self-direction, allowing for users to choose their own path through the interactive content.
Course creators hope the course will spur the creation of more transdisciplinary teams of social scientists and genetic researchers, which they say are invaluable for public health advances and scientific breakthroughs.