Polygenic Science, Ethics, and Policy

Genetic association studies identify differences in DNA that are associated with differences in traits. Diagnosis of depression, BMI, and behavioral traits are just some examples of the traits that are being studied. Polygenic scores sum up the effects of these genetic differences (known as variants) to give an indication of how an individual’s risk compares to that of others. 

The Center is launching a project looking at some of the ethical and policy dimensions of genetic association studies and polygenic scores. The current focus is on an interdisciplinary conversation dedicated to clarifying how we do and should use the concepts of population and ancestry in connection with genetic association studies.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in race, genetics and ethics

Position summary:

The Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University is seeking a key team member at the postdoctoral level for a new two-year project. This project will focus on how the concepts of population and ancestry are used across science and social science disciplines, and how they should be used. We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher with a background in social science methodologies and a keen interest in the intersection of questions of race and justice to join this project. The successful candidate will work alongside a core team with expertise in genetics, ethics and bioethics, with input from a working group encompassing a wide array of experts.    

The successful candidate will devote all their working time to this project, which receives the bulk of its funding from the NIH. The project is motivated by developments in genetic association studies. It has defined aims, but the research agenda for pursuing those aims will be developed by the core team, including the successful candidate. The methodology will involve a mixture of analysis of text, interviews with experts in diverse disciplines, and normative analysis. In collaboration with the other postdoc on this project, the candidate will carry out research, co-lead the working group in a series of virtual meetings, plan larger-scale convenings to push the research agenda forward, and disseminate results of the project.

About the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics:

The Center seeks to strengthen teaching and research about pressing ethical issues; to foster sound norms of ethical reasoning and civic discussion; and to share the work of our community in the public interest. We are pursuing several topics at the intersection of health, justice, and democracy. The aim is to have practical impact. Our culture is highly collaborative, and we work hard to support each other. There is a lively series of events and discussions that all Center members are encouraged to attend. 

Annual compensation is $60,000. Details about benefits to be provided in the context of an offer. 

We are looking for someone to start as soon as possible. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis beginning September 21. The position will run through June 2022. The team will be working virtually at least through December 2020.

Minimum qualifications: PhD in a relevant field; individuals with many different backgrounds will be considered. An interest in the intersections of social sciences and normative work with natural sciences and medicine is highly desirable. Some experience of empirical social science methodologies strongly preferred.

Harvard is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

How to apply: Email CV and cover letter to ejsafrafellowships@fas.harvard.edu with the subject line: Postdoctoral Research Fellow Application.

Questions? Please direct any questions to Anna Lewis at annalewis@fas.harvard.edu.


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