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Communicating Toxicogenomics Information to Nonexperts: A Workshop Summary
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and research scientists in industry and nonprofit organizations. The workshop planning committee determined that federal agencies would be interested in framing the concept of toxicogenomics for the public and would recognize the importance of gauging public response to the science, inasmuch as the agencies and other organizations use risk communication for activities as varied as stakeholder meetings at Superfund sites and review of drug advertising.
The workshop began with a presentation of the goals of and need for the workshop by Mark Rothstein, University of Louisville, chair of the workshop planning committee. Mr. Rothstein was followed by Robert Griffin, Marquette University, a planning committee member, who introduced the field of risk communication as an element of social science research. William Greenlee, CIIT Centers for Health Research, a planning committee member, then gave a brief overview of what scientists mean by toxicogenomics and of the technologies used in this new field. The remainder of the workshop was organized around two panels, which are described below. The workshop ended with a discussion among all the panelists and a question-and-answer period with the audience.
Mr. Rothstein identified four primary goals of the workshop: to discuss the relationship between scientific understanding and public misconceptions about science as it relates to toxicogenomics; to consider ethical, legal, and social issues and their impact on communication about toxicogenomics; to describe the analytic tools needed to understand the public’s perceptions of toxicology and genomics; and to capture the diversity of factors that lead to different perceptions of risk at the individual, group, and societal levels. To the committee’s knowledge, no research has been conducted specifically on communication of toxicogenomics to any audience. Therefore, the ad hoc committee looked to experts in the field of risk communication to consider what communication theories and research on analogous scientific or public-health issues might be applied in the context of toxicogenomics.
Dr. Griffin discussed the workshop format and offered background information regarding risk communication. The workshop was designed to help scientists and policy-makers identify those key communication issues that will arise as research in toxicogenomics progresses. Speakers were asked to identify key social, scientific, and communication research that would be especially insightful and would help to address communication-research gaps.
Dr. Griffin said that most risk-communication research has been based on individual psychology, which seeks to gain a better understanding of how individual members of the public respond to risk information—for