Strategies for consulting with the community: the cases of four large-scale genetic databases

Sci Eng Ethics. 2004 Jul;10(3):457-77. doi: 10.1007/s11948-004-0003-y.


Large-scale genetic databases are being developed in several countries around the world. However, these databases depend on public participation and acquiescence. In the past, information campaigns have been waged and little attention has been paid to dialogue. Nowadays, it is important to include the public in the development of scientific research and to encourage a free, open and useful dialogue among those involved. This paper is a review of community consultation strategies as part of four proposed large-scale genetic databases in Iceland, Estonia, United Kingdom and Quebec. The Iceland Health Sector Database and Estonian Genome Project have followed a "communication approach" in order to address public concerns, whereas, UK Biobank and Quebec CARTaGENE have chosen a "partnership approach" to involve the public in decision-making processes. Following a comparison of community consultation strategies, the main concerns of the public are examined as well as the challenges of involving communities. Importantly, reported across all groups is the concern for confidentiality, respect of the individual, transparency, and the donor's right to access to their own result. However, even if researchers demonstrate a willingness to respect values such as fair representation, transparency and accountability, there is still a risk that the public will mistrust researchers and simply will not participate in sufficient numbers. Complications may arise when individual and community interests conflicts. The implementation of a partnership approach is definitely involving and costly; however, if used properly, this method can improve both participation and so database development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation*
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Databases, Genetic*
  • Estonia
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Quebec
  • United Kingdom