The Genographic Project’s Scientific Grants Program

While I was at Spencer Wells’ poster at ASHG I was primarily curious about bar plots. He’s got really good spatial coverage, so I’m moderately excited about the paper (though I didn’t see much explicit testing of phylogenetic hypotheses, which I think this sort of paper has to do now; we’re beyond PCA and bar plots only papers). That being said, Spencer was more interested in me promoting the Scientific Grants Program. Here’s some more information:

The Genographic Project’s Scientific Grants Program awards grants on a rolling basis for projects that focus on studying the history of the human species utilizing innovative anthropological genetic tools. The variety of projects supported by the scientific grants will aim to construct our ancient migratory and demographic history while developing a better understanding of the phylogeographic structure of world populations. Sample research topics could include subjects like the origin and spread of the Indo-European languages, genetic insights into Papua New Guinea’s high linguistic diversity, the number and routes of migrations out of Africa, the origin of the Inca, or the genetic impact of the spread of maize agriculture in the Americas.

Recipients will typically be population geneticists, students, linguists, and other researchers or scientists interested in pursuing questions relevant to the Genographic Project’s broad goal of exploring our migratory history. Recipients of Genographic scientific grant funds will become members of the Genographic Consortium, and will be expected to act as agents of the greater Genographic mission, participating in and reporting on multiple aspects of Genographic fieldwork, in addition to their own proposed and mission‐aligned pilot projects. Openness and transparency within the Consortium are the key values of the project’s research team, and grantees will be expected to abide by this code of conduct.

If you poke through their material they say that the grant will be to thousand dollars. That’s 125 to 250 Geno 2.0 chips. Speaking of which, I sent in a chip about a month ago now. The results should be back soon.

So why was Spencer so keen on me pushing this again? (I’ve mentioned it before) After being at ASHG 2012 I’m shocked in the small sample space of people interested in these sorts of historical genetic questions. I say this because I’ve reviewed/read most of the papers which were present as posters. I wonder on occasion if I’m missing out on something, but these results indicate no, there’s only so many labs doing this sort of work. The last is the key question. This is where “bottom up” non-academic science can do wonders. An Indian group presented a poster at ASHG, and when they told me of the similarities between Iyers and Bengali Brahmins I couldn’t help but admit that “Yes, I know that already, my friend Zack Ajmal came to that conclusion.” If you are an academic you need to go beyond tools and methods and analytic insights which someone with a spare computer and some marginal free time can generate. Academic monopolies on these data are going to be short-lived at best. And all for the good. I’m sick & tired of intellectual rents.

Source: Discover Magazine – Gene Expression