TAGC and InLab directors contribute to Behavioural Genetics and Early Intervention Policy workshop

 

Professor Yulia Kovas and Fatos Selita – contributed to the workshop, organised by the Early Intervention Foundation, with key figures in a number of disciplines, including Geneticists, Policymakers / Civil Servants, Lawyers, Educationalists, Ethicists and Economists – contributed and exchanged ideas.

The workshop addressed the question (and related matters): whether, when and how we should apply findings in behavioural genetics to improving early intervention in school education.

The Workshop was organised and put together by Kathryn Asbury, Tom McBride and their team.

 

Ideas generated

The workshop was organised under the Chatham House rules. This meant that the participants could express their ideas freely – which in turn led to a fruitful exchange and a wide range of sophisticated ideas.

A full report will be made available by the Early Foundation Intervention. Key points from the workshop include:

  • The genetic data of children are being used widely by private and other organisations, which means that their privacy and risks associated with misuses of genetic data cannot be prevented by not applying genetic knowledge in education. And, considering use of genetic information in education is one certain positive outcome, it would be unfortunate not to make use of genetic science to improve education for all.
  • That there is a resistance of implementing genetic science in education for various reasons including historical, and the views of society hold on use of genetic information. That these views generally stem from a misunderstanding of genetics as being deterministic.
  • That we are so lucky to have such advanced knowledge. That genetic science has shed light in so many unknowns which harmed people for generations; and why not use it to shed light in the unknowns of education.
  • That considering genetic science is highly complex, for benefits to make sense to a non-geneticist, training is generally required; and therefore it would help enormously if key stakeholders, and particularly policymakers/civil servants, were trained by people with multidisciplinary training who understand complexities of cross-field communication.
  • That it is now highly likely that we can prevent significant barriers to education through early intervention using genetic knowledge.
  • That we do not need to start by incorporating use of polygenic scores – but that we should at least start to implement gradually. For example, bring to school education knowledge on origins of behaviour, and the benefits and disadvantages of praise and blame.

 

Among the concerns raised were:

  • Possible stigma and the complexities of training teacher to best implement findings.
  • How teachers would react if they were to learn of a low or high polygenic score for a particular trait of a pupil.
  • That we do not have sufficient data on minority groups and therefore we are not sure whether preventative measures would be suitable for these groups.
  • That it is difficult to introduce the idea of using genetic scores in education to relevant stakeholders.

 

Contributors included:

 

Tom McBride, Director of Evidence at EIF. With 15 years of experience of public sector research and analysis roles – much of his work focusing on the performance of disadvantaged children, and the role of education in improving social mobility.

Kathryn Asbury, Director of the GenOmics And Life Stories (GOALS).  With a background in twin research and in applying behavioural genetic research to education. Particularly interested in exploring the risks and benefits associated with using findings from genetic research (eg polygenic scores) to inform educational policy and practice. Her twin research has been funded by the British Academy, NIH and the Nuffield Foundation.

Kaili Rimfeld, a researcher on causes of correlates of individual differences in academic achievement combining behavioural genetic and statistical genetic methods with psychometrics and innovative assessment methods.

Jo Casebourne, chief executive of EIF. Previously, director of development at the Institute for Government, leading the institute’s work on public services and English devolution, after earlier stints as director of public and social innovation at Nesta and director of research at the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion.

Robert Plomin, MRC Research Professor in Behavioural Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London; with a number of lifetime research achievement awards; a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, British Academy, American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Academy of Medical Sciences (UK).   

Fatos Selita, Barrister of England and Wales; Attorney and Counselor at Law of the State of New York, USA; Director of a number of courses on Genetics and Law, Decision Making and Public Speaking; a founding member of TAGC, The Accessible Genetics Consortium; President of the UKSLA, UK Law and Society Association; and Executive Publisher of Legal Issues Journal.

Tim Leunig, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Education; Associate Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics; with a PhD in economics; and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Statistical Society, and the Royal Society of Arts. 

Daniel Benjamin, a researcher in behavioral economics (which incorporates ideas and methods from psychology into economic analysis) and genoeconomics (which incorporates genetic data into economics).

Kevan Collins, the chair of the Youth Endowment Fund; CEO of Education Endowment Foundation, the grant-making education charity dedicated to overcoming educational disadvantage. Previously, the National Director of the Primary National Strategy; Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council.

Lindsey Macmillan, the Director of the new Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO); a Research Fellow in the Education and Skills sector at the Institute for Fiscal Studies; a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at London School of Economics.

Nick Pearce, an author and regular commentator on public policy in print media; with extensive experience in policy research and government policymaking. A Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institution of British Architects; Chair of the independent Democracy and Civic Participation Commission for Newham Borough Council; Chair of Trustees at both Tavistock Relationships and the Early Intervention Foundation.

Nic Timpson, a Wellcome Trust Investigatory (dissecting the routes between altered body composition/BMI and health outcomes); the PI of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and has work package/programme leadership roles in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, the CRUK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme and the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre.

Omar Khan, Director of TASO. Chair of Olmec, chair of the Ethnicity Strand Advisory Group to Understanding Society, chair of the advisory group of the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester, Commissioner on the Financial Inclusion Commission and a member of the 2021 REF and 2014 REF assessment. Previously, director of Runnymede Trust; Head of Policy at the Runnymede Trust; a Governor at the University of East London and a 2012 Clore Social Leadership Fellow.

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