Keinan lab blog


April 12, 2018
Crowdsourcing big data research on human history and health: from genealogies to genomes and back again
By Alon Keinan, with contributions from Alexandre Lussier

About two months ago, Science Magazine invited me to write a Perspective to appear in the same issue as “Quantitative analysis of population-scale family trees with millions of relatives” (AKA the Geni genealogy) by Joanna Kaplanis, Assaf Gordon et al. with Yaniv Erlich and many others. Realizing that this paper will be covered by everyone and their mother, I spent days aiming to come up with unique facts and perspectives, finding myself ensconced in what became research projects, reading dozens of articles, and going down multiple rabbit holes of writing. Nothing that I could have afforded doing within the 30 days I was given to produce the Perspective. Based on other papers I previously discussed with Science editors, though Kaplanis et al. assembled and analyzed genealogies, my mandate from Science was to cover crowdsourced studies in related fields as well, especially in genetics, and the state of these fields in general—past, present, and future. And the icing on the cake: All that in 1250 words (including references!)

Published today in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2634), alongside the publication of Kaplanis et al. (of which a First Release appeared online in the interim), is our Perspective, not before removing many parts, frantically cutting down, and editing in several rounds, including with the gracious help of Science Perspective editor, of what has been a much, much longer draft. I thought to complement its publication with the following longer-read version. While not as concise, I find it to be less cryptic to read, more accessible to a general audience, and comprehensive in discussing aspects of that important study and the state of the pertaining fields. If nothing else, I found it worthwhile for being able to use my full-length title (The Hobbit anybody?)

Check out the full post here!