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Establishing a Native American Genetic Research Program: The Role of the International Biological Program

Margot Iverson is a doctoral candidate in the Program in the History of Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota. Her lecture will feature a discussion on The International Biological Program.
When Feb 15, 2005
from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 101 Pattee Library
Contact Name
Contact Phone 8148635911
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Event photoMargot Iverson

Ph.D. Candidate, History of Science and Technology Program, University of Minnesota

Margot Iverson is a doctoral candidate in the Program in the History of Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the history of human genetics and anthropology in the American context, and she is currently at work on a dissertation examining the history of genetic research on Native Americans. Prior to graduate school, Margot received her bachelor’s degree in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental biology from Yale University and worked as a project assistant in the Science and Policy Directorate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she worked on projects concerning ethical and legal aspects of contemporary science.


Establishing a Native American Genetic Research Program: The Role of the International Biological Program

The International Biological Program was a multi-year project which ran from 1967 to 1974. Organized around the theme of "The Biological Basis of Productivity and Human Welfare," the IBP was intended to foster international scientific collaboration and to promote worldwide research on the environment. Fifty-eight countries were involved directly in the IBP, and among these the United States was one of the most important contributors of both scientific research and organizational leadership. Analysis of the IBP's impact on U.S. science has concentrated on the ecological component of the program and its effect on the emerging field of ecology during an era of growing environmental concern. Yet the U.S. IBP effort also included extensive biological research on humans. In particular, as part of the human adaptability subsection of the IBP, American scientists participated in large-scale studies of Native North and South Americans. These populations were identified as scientifically valuable because of their unique genetic heritage and because they were perceived to be rapidly disappearing, and a key component of IBP research was thus the collection of extensive genetic information. My talk will focus on this genetic research and the conceptualization behind it of Native American communities as vanishing genetic resources. I will also discuss the links between this IBP research and the more recently proposed Human Genome Diversity Program, a project which has also focused on indigenous Americans as biologically endangered and genetically unique, and which has been met with strong objections from Native communities.