Daphne Martschenko, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics.
I hold an MPhil from the University of Cambridge in Politics, Development, and Democratic Education and in 2019 received a Ph.D. in Education, also from the University of Cambridge. My doctoral work investigated teacher perspectives on the role and relevance of genetic data for education, focusing on how behavioral genetics research on educational attainment and intelligence intersected with educators’ conceptualizations of racial and socioeconomic disparities in the American education system. I have appeared in numerous podcasts including Freakonomics Radio. I’ve had my work published in publicly accessible media outlets like Scientific American and The Conversation. My work advocates for and facilitates research efforts that promote socially responsible communication of and community engagement with social and behavioral genomics.
Currently I am writing a book with my friend and colleague Sam Trejo, a quantitative social scientist interested in how social and biological factors jointly shape human development across the life-course. In it, we unpack various social, ethical, and policy issues related to the DNA revolution. The floodgates of genetic data have opened, resurfacing age-old debates and raising new questions. We hope our book moves past the dichotomies—interpretivist vs. positivist, qualitative vs. quantitative, optimism vs. pessimism regarding biological explanations—that vex the biosocial sciences.
Assistant Professor (Research), Pediatrics - Center for Biomedical Ethics
Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations
Member, ClinGen Ancestry and Diversity Working Group (2021 - Present)
Board of Directors Member, Blueprint Schools Network (2021 - Present)
Advisory Committee Member, Enhancing diversity of clinical trials in Duchenne (2022 - Present)
Steering Committee Member, Wrestling with Social and Behavioral Genomics: Risk, Potential Benefit, and Ethical Responsibility (2020 - 2022)
Member, Population Association of America (2023 - Present)
Member, American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities (2020 - Present)
Member, American Society for Human Genetics (2021 - Present)
B.A., Stanford University, Slavic Languages and Literature (2014)
B.A., Stanford University, Anthropology (Medical) (2014)
M.Phil., University of Cambridge, Politics, Development, and Democratic Education (2016)
Ph.D., University of Cambridge, Education (2019)
- Including multiracial individuals is crucial for race, ethnicity and ancestry frameworks in genetics and genomics. Nature genetics 2023
- The Value of Intersectionality for Genomic Research on Human Behavior. Genetics in medicine : official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics 2023: 100860
Wrestling with Public Input on an Ethical Analysis of Scientific Research.
The Hastings Center report
2023; 53 Suppl 1: S50-S65
Bioethicists frequently call for empirical researchers to engage participants and community members in their research, but don't themselves typically engage community members in their normative research. In this article, we describe an effort to include members of the public in normative discussions about the risks, potential benefits, and ethical responsibilities of social and behavioral genomics (SBG) research. We reflect on what might-and might not- be gained from engaging the public in normative scholarship and on lessons learned about public perspectives on the risks and potential benefits of SBG research and the responsible conduct and communication of such research. We also provide procedural lessons for others in bioethics who are interested in engaging members of the public in their research.
View details for DOI 10.1002/hast.1478
View details for PubMedID 37079856
- Data sharing and community-engaged research. Science (New York, N.Y.) 2022; 378 (6616): 141-143
Ethical, anticipatory genomics research on human behavior means celebrating disagreement.
1800; 3 (1): 100080
Despite the many social and ethical considerations in human genetics, researchers and communities remain largely siloed as for-profit, direct-to-consumer genetic testing and the application of polygenic scores to invitro fertilization services become increasingly prevalent. The multifaceted challenges facing genomics, both empirical and ethical, require collaborations that foster critical dialogue and honest debate between communities inside and outside the research enterprise. This piece argues that in order to respond to the premature or inappropriate use of genomic data in industry, the scientific community needs to first embrace, understand, and be in dialogue about its disagreements. We introduce the research framework of adversarial collaboration as a way to celebrate disagreement and productively work toward policy-informed, ethical, and anticipatory genomics research.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.xhgg.2021.100080
View details for PubMedID 35047864
- FoGS provides a public FAQ repository for social and behavioral genomic discoveries. Nature genetics 2021; 53 (9): 1272-1274
Beware of the phony horserace between genes and environments.
The Behavioral and brain sciences
2023; 46: e228
Although Burt provides a valuable critique of the scientific value of integrating genetic data into social science research, she reinforces rather than disrupts the age-old horserace between genetic effects and environmental effects. We must move past this false dichotomy to create a new ontology that recognizes the ways in which genetic and environmental processes are inextricably intertwined.
View details for DOI 10.1017/S0140525X22002485
View details for PubMedID 37695009
Wrestling with Social and Behavioral Genomics: Risks, Potential Benefits, and Ethical Responsibility.
The Hastings Center report
2023; 53 Suppl 1: S2-S49
In this consensus report by a diverse group of academics who conduct and/or are concerned about social and behavioral genomics (SBG) research, the authors recount the often-ugly history of scientific attempts to understand the genetic contributions to human behaviors and social outcomes. They then describe what the current science-including genomewide association studies and polygenic indexes-can and cannot tell us, as well as its risks and potential benefits. They conclude with a discussion of responsible behavior in the context of SBG research. SBG research that compares individuals within a group according to a "sensitive" phenotype requires extra attention to responsible conduct and to responsible communication about the research and its findings. SBG research (1) on sensitive phenotypes that (2) compares two or more groups defined by (a) race, (b) ethnicity, or (c) genetic ancestry (where genetic ancestry could easily be misunderstood as race or ethnicity) requires a compelling justification to be conducted, funded, or published. All authors agree that this justification at least requires a convincing argument that a study's design could yield scientifically valid results; some authors would additionally require the study to have a socially favorable risk-benefit profile.
View details for DOI 10.1002/hast.1477
View details for PubMedID 37078667
Confronting ethical and social issues related to the genetics of musicality
ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
2023; 1522 (1): 5-14
New interdisciplinary research into genetic influences on musicality raises a number of ethical and social issues for future avenues of research and public engagement. The historical intersection of music cognition and eugenics heightens the need to vigilantly weigh the potential risks and benefits of these studies and the use of their outcomes. Here, we bring together diverse disciplinary expertise (complex trait genetics, music cognition, musicology, bioethics, developmental psychology, and neuroscience) to interpret and guide the ethical use of findings from recent and future studies. We discuss a framework for incorporating principles of ethically and socially responsible conduct of musicality genetics research into each stage of the research lifecycle: study design, study implementation, potential applications, and communication.
View details for DOI 10.1111/nyas.14972
View details for Web of Science ID 000940948700001
View details for PubMedID 36851882
Re-envisioning community genetics: community empowerment in preventive genomics.
Journal of community genetics
As genomic technologies rapidly develop, polygenic scores (PGS) are entering into a growing conversation on how to improve precision in public health and prevent chronic disease. While the integration of PGS into public health and clinical services raises potential benefits, it also introduces potential harms. In particular, there is a high level of uncertainty about how to incorporate PGS into clinical settings in a manner that is equitable, just, and aligned with the long-term goals of many healthcare systems to support person-centered and value-based care. This paper argues that any conversation about whether and how to design and implement PGS clinical services requires dynamic engagement with local communities, patients, and families. These parties often face the consequences, both positive and negative, of such uncertainties and should therefore drive clinical translation. As a collaborative effort between hospital stakeholders, community partners, and researchers, this paper describes a community-empowered co-design process for addressing uncertainty and making programmatic decisions about the implementation of PGS into clinical services. We provide a framework for others interested in designing clinical programs that are responsive to, and inclusive and respectful of, local communities.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s12687-023-00638-y
View details for PubMedID 36765027
- Black Bioethics in the Age of Black Lives Matter JOURNAL OF MEDICAL HUMANITIES 2023: 1-17
- Rethinking the "Public" and Rethinking "Engagement". The American journal of bioethics : AJOB 2023; 23 (7): 66-68
Precision Medicine Needs to Think Outside the Box.
Frontiers in genetics
2022; 13: 795992
Precision medicine offers a precious opportunity to change clinical practice and disrupt medicine's reliance on crude racial, ethnic, or ancestral categories by focusing on an individual's unique genetic, environmental, and lifestyle characteristics. However, precision medicine and the genomic studies that are its cornerstone have thus far failed to account for human diversity. This failure is made clearer when looking at individuals who encapsulate a mosaic of different genetic ancestries and do not fit neatly into existing population labels. This piece argues that precision medicine continues to rely on the same forms of crude categorization it seeks to unsettle. Until the scientific community creates inclusive solutions for individuals who fall outside or between our existing population labels, precision medicine will continue to fall short in its aims.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fgene.2022.795992
View details for PubMedID 35559033
The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality (Book Review)
HASTINGS CENTER REPORT
2021; 51 (6): 54-55
Genes have long been used to validate social inequality. The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality, by Kathryn Paige Harden, attempts not only to reclaim genetic research on human behavior from its eugenic past but also to argue that genetic research can be used to understand and enhance social equality. This review essay illustrates why embracing a political agenda in which genetics matter for social equality will not in practice advance efforts to reduce social inequality. It argues that the points raised in The Genetic Lottery would be important in an alternate world in which structural inequalities have ceased to exist, but not in the world we live in today.
View details for DOI 10.1002/hast.1307
View details for Web of Science ID 000730395000014
View details for PubMedID 34904740
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9210985
- Normalizing race in (gifted) education: genomics and spaces of White exceptionalism CRITICAL STUDIES IN EDUCATION 2023; 64 (1): 67-83
"The elephant in the room": social responsibility in the production of sociogenomics research
2022; 17 (4): 713-731
Sociogenomics examines the extent to which genetic differences between individuals relate to differences in social and economic behaviors and outcomes. The field evokes mixed reactions. For some, sociogenomics runs the risk of normalizing eugenic attitudes and legitimizing social inequalities. For others, sociogenomics brings the promise of more robust and nuanced understandings of human behavior. Regardless, a history of misuse and misapplication of genetics raises important questions about researchers' social responsibilities. This paper draws on semi-structured interviews with sociogenomics researchers who investigate intelligence and educational attainment. It does so to understand how researcher's motivations for engaging in a historically burdened field connect to their views on social responsibility and the challenges that come with it. In interviews, researchers highlighted the trade-off between engaging in socially contested research and the potential benefits their work poses to the social sciences and clinical research. They also highlighted the dilemmas of engaging with the public, including the existence of multiple publics. Finally, researchers elucidated uncertainties over what social responsibility is in practice and whether protecting against the misuse and misinterpretation of their research is wholly possible. This paper concludes by offering ways to address some of the challenges of social responsibility in the production of knowledge.
View details for DOI 10.1057/s41292-021-00239-3
View details for Web of Science ID 000669268700002
View details for PubMedID 36532361
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9754080
- What about Ethics in Design Bioethics? AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BIOETHICS 2021; 21 (6): 61-63
- Genes do not operate in a vacuum, and neither should our research NATURE GENETICS 2021; 53 (3): 255–56
Embodying biopolitically discriminate borders: teachers' spatializations of race
DISCOURSE-STUDIES IN THE CULTURAL POLITICS OF EDUCATION
2022; 43 (1): 101-114
Borders are constructs that shape our understandings of our societies, communities, and the world. Geospatial borders draw distinctions between neighborhoods and schools that are deemed 'worthy' and 'unworthy' of economic, social, and political investment. This paper employs the theoretical framework of 'discriminate biopower' to argue that geospatial borders produce a 'socio-political invisibility' linked to race and racial inequality. Through focus group discussions with kindergarten - grade eight educators in the Chicago metropolitan area of the United States, this paper provides evidence of how understandings of race are spatially applied by teachers. Findings suggest that teachers located and conflated individuals and racial groups with physical locations, demonstrating how spatial borders and the practice of bordering function as a biopolitical and segregationist way to understand race and power.
View details for DOI 10.1080/01596306.2020.1813089
View details for Web of Science ID 000568759200001
View details for PubMedID 35692447
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9181023
- "The train has left the station": The arrival of the biosocial sciences in education RESEARCH IN EDUCATION 2020; 107 (1): 3–9
- DNA Dreams': Teacher Perspectives on the Role and Relevance of Genetics for Education RESEARCH IN EDUCATION 2020; 107 (1): 33–54
- Genetics and Education: Recent Developments in the Context of an Ugly History and an Uncertain Future AERA OPEN 2019; 5 (1)