Recent, rapid advances in genomics have made it increasingly inexpensive to measure genetic variation across individuals. These advances have made it possible for social scientists to begin to study how genetic variation relates to behavioral phenotypes (i.e., behaviors and outcomes), such as educational attainment, subjective well-being, and economic preferences. The USC Dornsife Behavioral and Health Genomics Center brings together leading researchers in the emerging field of social-science genomics.
The goals of the Center are:
- To apply cutting-edge methods from statistical genomics to study behavioral phenotypes.
- To develop new methods to improve our understanding of the genetic architecture of behavioral phenotypes.
- To shed light on the biological and environmental pathways underlying the relationships between genetic variation and behavioral phenotypes.
- To explore how genetic associations can be amplified or dampened by environmental factors and policy interventions.
- To develop methods of leveraging results from social-science genomics to improve other research in social science (for example, using genetic predictors as control variables).
A distinguishing feature of the Center is its emphasis on using very large datasets in order to conduct social-science genomics research. This emphasis arises from a recognition that for behavioral phenotypes, virtually any particular genetic variant has a very small association, and hence very large samples are needed to produce robust and replicable findings. The Center has close ties with the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium
( http://www.thessgac.org/ ), which is a research infrastructure that brings together many researchers with access to genomic data in order to facilitate large-sample studies of behavioral phenotypes.