The challenges are not so much technical as cultural, Wells says.
Question: How is technology changing the way you work?
Spencer Wells: For the work that we’re doing in Genographic, the challenges are not so much technical as they are for lack of a better term, social or cultural, you know, it’s not really a challenge to get the genetic information once the DNA sample is in the laboratory, you know, that technology has advanced so much in the last decade, really is a spinoff of the human genome project that generating genetic data these days is not that hard. It’s getting the sample in the first place and so that’s why, you know, the Genographic Project, yes it is a genetics project but really the hard part of what we do is going out around the world and making contact with indigenous peoples and sometimes very remote locations, sending teams out, doing outreach, talking to people about the work we do and, you know, convincing them that it’s worthwhile to participate in this project, getting those samples. That is really the challenge, you know, it’s the challenge in what we do but it’s the challenge in all fields of genetics these days. It is, you know, building your cohort if you’re doing a medical genetic study, it’s getting enough people with the disease and without the disease who are matched for age and body mass index and everything else you do in order to find those disease associations. It’s getting those samples that is the real challenge and so, you know, for me I don’t see any massive changes in technology affecting what we do scientifically, it’s really, you know, creating the logistical framework in the project to allow us to get the samples we need to tell this story, that’s the tough thing in the field of research that I’m in.
Recorded on: 5/22/08