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Yale J Biol Med. 2017 Dec 19;90(4):661-665. eCollection 2017 Dec.

An Appreciation of The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee and a Call for Expanded Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

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Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Biomedical Engineering, and Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.


The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee, first published in 2016, is a comprehensive and fascinating recounting of the discovery of the gene and genetics research from wrinkled peas to CRISPR/Cas9 and all the details in between. In Mukherjee's sweeping history, the science is clearly depicted but also tightly integrated into the political movements and world events that it spawned, both hopeful and detestable. Two stories from The Gene are the central focuses of this article. One story is driven by the desire of Eugenicists in early 20th century America to rid the population of defective traits. The second is driven by the late 20th century promise of gene therapy to rid individuals of fatal inherited diseases. Both stories are tragic and serve as cautionary tales. These and other "case studies" in the role of science in society moved this reader to ask: what level of ethical and professional training is appropriate for today's emerging scientists? In this article, the intent and the limitations of mandated Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training for science and engineering graduate students are reviewed and explicated, and the obligations of scientists to themselves and others are discussed. Extrapolating from the stories in the book to the types of events and conflicts that may arise to challenge practicing scientists, a few constructive recommendations are offered for an expansion of the traditional RCR syllabus.


Book review
; Ethics Training; Eugenics; Gene Therapy; Graduate Student; Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR); Scientist-Citizen

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