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Celebrate National DNA Day with Citizen Science

By: Elizabeth Tuck, Genomics Education Specialist [C] at the National Human Genome Research Institute
10 April 2018

Genome is just a fancy word for all your DNA. Whether you realize it or not, many parts of our daily lives are influenced by genomic information and genomic technologies. Genomics now provides a powerful lens for use in various areas - from medical decisions, to food safety, to ancestry.

National DNA Day (April 25) is a special day designed to encourage students, teachers, and curious humans to share, learn about, and celebrate the latest advances in genomic research and explore how those advances might impact their lives. Designated by Congress in 2003, DNA Day commemorates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953. See the National DNA Day Webpage for details.

April 2018 will mark the 15th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project. To commemorate this milestone and the genomic advances that have been made since 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and its network of partners will launch the ’15 for 15’ Celebration - unveiling 15 ways that genomics has and will continue to transform our world.

One major part of this celebration is bringing attention to the idea that people all across the globe can contribute to genomics and related research by participating in various citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, such as the American Gut Project run through the UC San Diego School of Medicine or Colony B from McGill University which builds from the American Gut Project data. Genomics by nature is a ‘big data’ field that uses many complex statistical methods and algorithms; still human contributions to pattern recognition and creative problem-solving are an important component to analyzing these big datasets. And we always need more people to make the research more reflective of the diversity of the human species and increase our understanding of how genomic differences contribute to our health and risk for disease.

This year – as part of the ’15 for 15’ and DNA Day Celebrations – we are partnering with Jérôme Waldispühl, Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science McGill University to encourage a month-long Citizen Science Games for DNA Day Challenge. Featured games include Phylo, where players help align DNA sequences to develop better algorithms; and Colony B, where players identify clusters of bacteria that are important for human health. New updates to the websites, more data, and refreshers to the apps will make this a fun way to get involved in genomics research and Celebrate DNA Day!

NHGRI will be hosting a discussion about the utility of crowdsourcing with its National DNA Day Speaker: Dr. Olivier Noel, CEO of DNASimple, who was recently featured on ABC’s Shark Tank. DNASimple is designed to serve as a crowdsourced match-maker service for people interested in participating in genomics research studies and researchers who need participants – kind of like a bone marrow registry but for DNA. His talk, titled “Bench to Bedside to Business: A Talk on Startups in Science” will be held on the NIH Campus and webcast via GenomeTV Live on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 4-5:30pm.

Join NHGRI and our partners for these exciting events starting April 5 – April 25!