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The legacy of language: What we say, and what people hear, when we talk about genomics.

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Costa, Alessia 
Milne, Richard 
Patch, Christine 
Robarts, Lauren 


The way we "talk" about genetics plays a vital role in whether public audiences feel at ease in having conversations about it. Our research explored whether there was any difference between "what we say" and "what people hear" when providing information about genetics to community groups who are known to be missing from genomics datasets. We conducted 16 focus groups with 100 members of the British public who had limited familiarity with genomics and self-identified as belonging to communities with Black African, Black Caribbean, and Pakistani ancestry as well as people of various ancestral heritage who came from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Participants were presented with spoken messages explaining genomics and their responses to these were analyzed. Results indicated that starting conversations that framed genomics through its potential benefits were met with cynicism and skepticism. Participants cited historical and present injustices as reasons for this as well as mistrust of private companies and the government. Instead, more productive conversations led with an acknowledgment that some people have questions-and valid concerns-about genomics, before introducing any of the details about the science. To diversify genomic datasets, we need to linguistically meet public audiences where they are at. Our research has demonstrated that everyday talk about genomics, used by researchers and clinicians alike, is received differently than it is likely intended. We may inadvertently be further disengaging the very audiences that diversity programs aim to reach.



African, Black, Caribbean, Pakistani, communication, diversity, engagement, genetics, public, scientific racism, Humans, Black People, Focus Groups, Genomics, Language, White People, Genetics, African People, United Kingdom, Trust, Consumer Health Information

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Elsevier BV