Results of Nature poll on personal genetic analysis by scientists

Last month we pointed to a poll over at Nature looking primarily at the use of personal genetic tests among scientists (Nature‘s Brendan Maher was kind enough to consult us when designing the poll, so we were able to pass on some of the lessons we learned when doing our own reader survey last year). The results are now in, and Brendan has a brief article taking a look at the results.

Firstly, there was a fantastic response to the survey – nearly 1,600 participants. Of those, 289 (18%) had taken some kind of genetic test; interestingly, a further 54% said they’d be interested in doing so if given the opportunity. The vast majority of genetic tests done were genome scans (50% 23andMe). The motivations of those who had tests done were very similar to those from our readers – intellectual curiosity ranked at the top, with interest in health, genealogy and ancestry ranking lower.

Brendan’s piece has some nice vignettes from survey respondents. He was also kind enough to pass on the raw (anonymised) data to us for further analysis, and we’ll be poking around in there over the next week or so. Some immediately interesting results emerge from the comparison of the results from participants who fell into the “biology” vs “medicine” discipline: of those who had taken genetic tests, biologists were far more likely to have been tested by 23andMe (73.3% vs 47.2%) and were more likely to have cited “intellectual curiosity” as a major factor in their decision (71.1% vs 42.6%), whereas “medicine” respondents were more likely to cite a specific health risk as a major factor (34.4% vs 18.7%), were more likely to have consulted a clinician beforehand (23.0% vs 7.8%) and were more likely to report negative outcomes to testing (8.2% vs 4.8%). Of those who hadn’t yet had a genetic test done, biologists were more likely to be interested in doing so if given the opportunity (74.4% vs 67.6%). Nothing terribly shocking, but some useful insight into the basis of the “culture war” between basic and medical researchers over the issues surrounding personal genomics.

Anyway, kudos to Brendan and the Nature team – and to their readers, of course – for generating such an interesting data-set. No doubt you’ll be hearing more about the results of this survey soon.

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