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Genomics and Society


24 November, 1st and 8 December

Lang EN Workshop language is English

Dr. Kostas Kampourakis, University of Geneva


Dr. Kostas Kampourakis, University of Geneva


In early 2020, more than 30 million people had taken a DNA test, either related to ancestry or to health. In many of these cases, individuals did not consult experts about how to accurately interpret the results of these tests and about what kind of inferences are legitimate. On the one hand, ancestry testing is often perceived as a recreational activity and therefore discussing one's result with a genealogist seems unnecessary. In addition, there are no genetic ancestry counselors (Marks, 2018). On the other hand, even if genetic testing companies themselves state that genetic tests related to health do not stand as diagnoses, not only people do not consult experts such as genetic counselors or other health professionals, but also many of these experts do not seem to be adequately trained in order to explain to people the potential and limitations of these tests (Kampourakis, 2017; Papaioannou and Kampourakis, 2019). In this course intended for PhD students, the public perception of DNA testing will be discussed, both for ancestry and for health, and the expectations that test-takers often have. Students will be asked to reflect upon the science behind genetic testing, its actual potential and limitations. This will provide the basis for students' development of the necessary skills to effectively communicate the potential and the limitations of genomic technologies to lay people. In particular, participants will be able to explain what kind of information genetic tests can actually provide, which is nothing more than an estimate of a range of probabilities to develop a disease (Kampourakis, 2021). Furthermore, participants are going to look at ancestry testing, the current technologies of assigning individuals to particular populations, and the problems with making inferences about ancestral populations and individual ancestry from these results (Krimsky, 2021; Kampourakis, 2023). In both cases effective communication requires that scientists are aware of what lay people know about these topics and what they think about them. This course will provide them with this information as well as the skill to effectively communicate the potential of genomics to lay people.

At the end of this course the students should be able to:
- Understand the societal issues related to the public awareness of genomics.
- Analyze polls on the public awareness and understanding of genomics, and interpret their findings.
- Address the concerns that non-experts have when it comes DNA testing.
- Explain the validity and the reliability of DNA testing to lay people, as well as the relevant limitations.
- Create a short essay that is intended to help non-experts understand a specific aspect of or topic related to genomics and society.
- Evaluate the short essays of other participants in terms of comprehensiveness and comprehensibility.

Materials: - Course page on
- Books: Kampourakis, K. (2021) Understanding Genes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Krimsky, S. (2021) Understanding DNA Ancestry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Kampourakis, K. (2017) Public understanding of genetic testing and obstacles to genetics literacy. In Patrinos G.P., Danielson P., Ansorge W.J. (Eds). Molecular Diagnostics (3rd edition). Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press, 469-477. Kampourakis, K. (2021) Understanding Genes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kampourakis, K. (2023) Ancestry Reimagined: Dismantling the Myth of Genetic Ethnicities. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Krimsky, S. (2021) Understanding DNA Ancestry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Marks, J. (2018). Genetic testing: When is information too much? Anthropology Today, 34(2), 1-2. Papaioannou, K. & Kampourakis, K. (2020) Health-care professionals' awareness and understanding of genomics. In G. P. Patrinos (Ed.) Applied Genomics and Public Health. San Diego CA: Academic Press, 225-242.


24 November 2022, 10AM-5PM

1 December 2022, 10AM-5PM

8 December 2022, 10AM-1PM

See also



UNIL, Amphipôle 359




When? 24 Nov 2022, 1 Dec 2022, 8 Dec 2022

Time: 10h00-13h00 and 14h00-17h00

Where? University of Lausanne, Amphipôle 359

Questions? contact: staromics(at)cuso(dot)ch

Note: The course is organized in collaboration with CUSO Ecology & Evolution.


Registration CUSO DPEE and CUSO StarOmics members: Free

External participants (non-CUSO PhD students, post-docs, etc...): please contact ecologie-evolution(at)cuso(dot)ch

Cancellation policy
In case of cancellations, before 10.11.2022: free
Late cancellations or no-show: 50 CHF administrative fee


Deadline for registration: Nov 10

Priority is given to PhD students of the Doctoral Programmes CUSO DPEE, MPS, StarOmics

Number of places for CUSO StarOmics: 9

In case of cancellations, before 10.11.2022: free
Late cancellations or no-show: 50 CHF administrative fee



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