Offering aggregate results to participants in genomic research: opportunities and challenges

Genet Med. 2012 Apr;14(4):490-6. doi: 10.1038/gim.2011.62. Epub 2012 Jan 26.


Although issues involved in offering individual results to participants in genomic research have received considerable attention, communication of aggregate results has been the subject of relatively little ethical analysis. Offering participants aggregate results is typically assumed to be a good thing, and studies have found that a significant majority of biobank research participants, when asked about their interest in aggregate results, say that access to such information would be important. Even so, return of aggregate results remains a relatively uncommon practice. In this article, we explore the opportunities involved in communicating aggregate results to participants in genomic research, including affirming the value of research participation, informing participants about research being conducted based on broad consent for future unspecified research, educating participants and the public about the research process, and building trust in the research enterprise. We also explore some of the challenges, including the complex intersection between individual and aggregate results, as well as practical hurdles. We conclude by offering our preliminary recommendations concerning the provision of aggregate results and an agenda for much-needed future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Genetics, Medical / ethics
  • Genetics, Medical / methods
  • Genomics / ethics*
  • Genomics / methods
  • Genomics / statistics & numerical data
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics / ethics
  • Medical Informatics / methods
  • Research Subjects*
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / ethics*
  • Truth Disclosure / ethics