Big Talks! ‘Unexpected’ ethical challenges in genomics and bioinformatics

Speaker: Prof. Rochelle Tractenberg,

When: September 9, 13:00 – 14:30

Where: SciLifeLab Solna, Air and Fire

Registration (if you like to have “fika” i.e. coffee and something sweet after the seminar):



Genomics and bioinformatics are multi-disciplinary domains, with influences of highly-experimental sciences (biology, genetics) and less-experimental domains (computing; data science). Much of the ethical training for life scientists can derive from the historical emphasis on ethics relating to research involving humans and animals; privacy and confidentiality; autonomy; beneficence and nonmalevolence (and sometimes, social justice). Five “other” challenges that may be unrecognized – and unaddressed – are the focus of this talk:

  1. a) “statistical misconduct” and other disruptive research practices are ubiquitous and contrary to practice standards;
  2. b) innovation that does not lead to reliable or reproducible results may do so because of statistical or scientific misconduct;
  3. c) transparency in practice and communication are essential to ethical work;
  4. d) practicing ethically may not support recognition and appropriate responses to unethical behaviors by others; and
  5. e) doing nothing when others are not behaving ethically, is itself, unethical.

A focus on positivism in science may help to erode community tolerance for a) and b), while a focus on what constitutes ethical science is important for c) and d). However, recognition of d) and e) are absolutely essential for the genomics and bioinformatics community/-ies, particularly as they engage in multi-disciplinary modern science. In this talk we will discuss these five challenges and their importance – and how they go beyond data ethics and the other core areas of “ethics” that are typical of ‘training in ethics” in the domain.

After the seminar you will have the opportunity to meet with Rochelle and discuss in a 1-to-1 setting, please indicate this in the registration form. Rochelle is a research methodologist, and have been a consulting biostatistician and scientist since 1997. Among other methods to facilitate research, she developed the Qualified Change algorithm in 2000 to make a change in qualitative and subjective ratings more amenable to parametric statistical analysis. To strengthen higher, post-graduate, and professional education, she also created the Mastery Rubric construct, which the latest one is the Mastery Rubric for Bioinformatics: supporting design and evaluation of career-spanning education and training (

Big Talks! is SciLifeLab Bioinformatics and Genomics seminar series which is an initiative during 2019 between several SciLifeLab platforms to build a forum where the Bioinformatics interested Life Science community can meet, discuss and listen to bioinformatics and genomics related topics from high profiled speakers. 

Registration for the 9th September BiG Talks!: (deadline 4th of September to be sure to get ‘fika’)

Any questions please contact Jessica Lindvall (Bioinformatics platform),