Jennifer Hochschild’s Talk on Race, Immigration, and Genomic Science
On Thursday Dec 1, Skidmore hosted Jennifer Hochschild, a professor from Harvard University and current head of the American Political Science Association, for a full day of meetings with students and Political Science professors. Her schedule culminated with a lecture in Gannett Auditorium titled, “Get Your Swabs Out of My Face!” which discussed America’s views on DNA Databases.
Hochschild presented her research on the politics regarding genomic studies, a field with massive potential, with “unimaginable” gains predicted in the coming century. She drew parallels between this field and physics in the early 1900s, noting that no one could have imagined the atomic bomb and the great strides in information physics would make. She emphasized how progress within genomic studies, like physics of the 1900s, is “unfathomable.”
Genomic studies are a major presence within the US with 15% of all patents applied for are genomic studies related while 18% of businesses in the US are genomic studies based. In addition to the growing presence of genomic science, this issue has not “attached to labels,” meaning that is mainly an independent issue not yet associated with a political party. This could mean that public opinion has the potential to influence politics regarding genomic studies.
Hochschild became aware of the implications of genomic science, both in terms of the societal use of genetic databases in both forensics (which is a field that has been mainly federally institutionalized) and its use in medical biobanks (which remain private and has minimal government interference). What interested her most, was the intersection between this cutting edge development and politics, in terms of which groups of the American public supported or opposed genomic databases.
She hypothesized that since the United States tends to be optimistic regarding scientific innovations, that opinions would be mostly positive, especially by liberals. She also expected conservatives to be less supportive of genomic databases To her surprise, the results showed that liberals and conservatives had roughly the same approval of genomic studies, with misgivings from people who labeled themselves as extremely conservative. Then she analyzed how race affects these results and discovered that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to be against genomic bio-banking. Her results found that this issue groups minorities and extreme conservatives on the same side, a coalition not typically seen in politics.
She explained the main factors that resulted in these findings stemmed from a persons’ cognition about the science, values, self-interest, and trust, with exceptional emphasis on trust as a reason to expand or stall further progress.