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Chiara Sabatti: Data science and the study of the human genome

As geneticists have access to more and more data, the question about how to use it ethically arises.

Illustration of small figures looking at a DNA-like tower

What are the latest trends in data science and genetics? | Illustration by Kevin Craft

Data science and genetics are closely linked and have been for some time. But now, data science is playing an even larger role in genetics, a trend that is prompting researchers to look hard at their ethical responsibilities, says Chiara Sabatti, a professor of biomedical data science and statistics at Stanford University.

As is the case in many other fields, geneticists have access to much more data than in the past, and because it is digitized, it can be mined. “Scientists rely on statisticians to mine this data and help them formulate hypotheses,” Sabatti says in an interview recorded for the Women in Data Science podcast. Truly understanding and interpreting this data correctly will become increasingly important for the public good as the tension between accessibility and privacy continues to grow, she notes. This is particularly true in genetics, in light of the increasing fascination with commercial DNA testing, says Sabatti.

“The idea that data speaks by itself is an illusion. It’s very important for us to find a way to communicate to the general public the opportunities and challenges in data analysis,” she says.

You can listen to the Women in Data Science podcast on Apple Podcasts, via the Women in Data Science website or Stanford Engineering Magazine.