GENEWATCH
 
EDITORIAL
By Samuel W. Anderson
 

When you looked at the cover of this issue of GeneWatch, you probably missed one of the most important parts. This is completely understandable. You may have been distracted by the mad scientist's wild hair, the Frankencorn monster reflected in his goggles, or his "It's alive!" expression. If you're a loyal reader, you may have been taking stock of the slightly untraditional layout. With all this going on, you can't be blamed for missing one word, in small and squiggly print, right in the middle: "and."

This issue could have easily been titled "Genetics in Popular Culture." I have accidentally swapped "in" for "and" a few times when referring to the issue, and it made me think a moment about which one would make more sense. The problem with "Genetics in Popular Culture" is that it excludes its inverse, which is also addressed here: "Popular Culture in Genetics." We can all think of ways that genetic science (or a rough interpretation of it) has been portrayed in popular culture. We've seen it as plot elements in sci-fi movies and books, translated for the layperson in the news or documentaries, or packaged as a consumer product by direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies.

We may find it more difficult, however, to think of ways that these representations of genetics or genomics have in turn impacted the science itself – but they have. The way genetic science and technologies are presented in popular culture informs our attitudes towards them and the importance society – including policymakers and scientists themselves – places on certain research or technologies. As Priscilla Wald points out in this issue: "Scientists read newspapers and popular fiction too."

The main part of this issue focuses on that two-way street between genetics and popular culture, from a contribution by Lori Andrews – herself an author of smart sci-fi thrillers – to Andrew Thibedeau's review of a rather more poorly conceived attempt at that genre. Outside of the central theme, the issue also includes an interview with Dr. Eric Green, circa a few days before he took over (in December) as the new head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

But all that serious business aside, it was our goal to make this issue a fun one for both reader and contributor. So if you're finding a discussion of the implications of the word "and" less interesting than the crazy-haired mad scientist on the cover, we can hardly blame you.

Sam Anderson is Editor of GeneWatch.

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