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Communicating Toxicogenomics Information to Nonexperts: A Workshop Summary
Effectively communicating the promise of new technologies can be challenging, particularly when the science is not yet fully developed and its application is not well defined and understood. Toxicogenomics meshes toxicology with genomic technology (study of the entire expanse of genetic information in an organism) and may hold the promise of detecting changes in the expression of a person’s genes if he or she is exposed to toxicants. As defined by the National Center for Toxicogenomics, toxicogenomics is the “collection, interpretation, and storage of information about gene and protein activity in order to identify toxic substances in the environment, and to help treat people at the greatest risk of diseases caused by environmental pollutants or toxicants” (NCT 2002). As the technology develops and more data become available, it is important that scientists and the public discuss the promises and limitations of this new field. The Committee on Communicating Toxicogenomics Information to Nonexperts designed a workshop to consider strategies for communicating toxicogenomics information to the public and other nonexpert audiences, specifically addressing communication issues surrounding some key social, ethical, and legal issues related to toxicogenomics and how information related to the social implications of toxicogenomics may be perceived by nonexperts. Because research on the communication of toxicogenomics to the public is sparse, panelists who are experts in risk and biotechnology communication were asked to present research from their work. They applied their expertise in analogous areas to discuss ways to design an effective strategy to communicate toxicogenomics information. Panelists discussed communication barriers, such