Genetics and Public Health Information to Trust

The title today is stolen directly from a fantastic blogger's site--Genetics and Health (http://www.geneticsandhealth.com), recently updated from its old title Genetics and Public Health. I'm hoping to gather some of the blogger's many readers.

Today, Hsein Hsein Lei challenged sites such as ours to answer 10 questions  from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. Institutes of Health. The questions tell Net users how to evaluate medical resources on the Web. I'm going to answer the questions today as the anchor blogger. Then, I'll check with the rest of the geneforum group for the correct answers!

1. Who runs this site?

We have a webmaster (Nate Angell), who works with two computer gurus (Eric Drechsel and Alex Fowler) to keep the website functioning and improving. The webmaster can be reached by clicking on Contact (available on every page).

2. Who pays for the site?

We're a nonprofit, founded and incorporated as a 501c3 in Portland, OR. Since we all work simply for the thrill of particpating, no one is paid. Greg Fowler (our founder) goes after the money and keeps promising that someday we'll all be compensated monetarily. Meanwhile, small grants cover specific tasks. None of our sponsors is allowed to influence content. We accept no advertising and carefully avoid naming specific companies in our comments--whether good or bad.

3. What is the purpose of the site?

Promoting public dialog. Our mantra is "informing citizens for the gene age". Greg, Andrew Fowler, Alex, and Eric work hard on finding opportunities for interaction with the public--in the form of surveys, questionnaires, public meetings, and the website. I'm the online education person, through the Genetizen blog. Our goal is to help people make informed decisions about genetics, especially in terms of public policy. We are not formally anti-something or pro-something, since we want to encourage interaction and discussion. Yes, I do admit that I personally am a cynic, and my blogs often reflect that attitude. Accurate knowledge is key, I believe and we strive to find that.

4.  Where does the information come from?

The information I post on the blog comes from Google alerts, a daily listing from an Ethics and Health Law online journal (from Australia), a free High Beam Research Institute alert, and hours and hours and hours searching the web. Our genetics information also comes from articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, newspaper articles (generally confirmed by cross-referencing other web sources), books, and other trusted websites. Our information on public attitudes comes from the public themselves and surveys conducted by reputable groups.

5. What is the basis of the information?

For the blog, I try to select items of interest to me and to others with whom I interact. I have chosen to use information provided in newspapers and online news sources, since these are what people most often read. I give the reference for my source, quote parts of it (within copyright limitations), and provide personal comment on the validity or unreliability of the information provided. I have a PhD in genetics from The Johns Hopkins University and use that training as a critical thinker to judge information I receive. Readers are free to comment on and challenge anything I write. When I discover I've made a mistake, I say so and correct it.

You've read more than enough for one day. Let's wait until tomorrow for the next installment of the 10 questions. 

Marie Godfrey, PhD 

mgodfrey39's blog