The Open Philanthropy Project recommended two grants totaling $1,738,500 to the University of Southern California to support the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC) and the Behavioral and Health Genomics Center. These grants fall within our interest in funding basic scientific research, and specifically within our interest in advancing tools and techniques.
We hope that our support of this work will advance scientific tools and techniques in several ways, including:
- By developing cross-cuttingly useful advances in the analysis of data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The researchers plan to develop tools for combining data on genetic associations between multiple traits, hopefully increasing statistical power (which effectively increase sample sizes) across all kinds of medical GWAS, which could make many kinds of medical research less expensive, and accordingly could accelerate new discoveries.
- By combining data from multiple sources (including data from consumer genetics companies) and developing polygenic scores (or scoring methods) that can be distributed freely as public goods. This could eventually help make social science research more statistically informative, which in turn could make it easier and less expensive to assess the efficacy of interventions designed to improve educational attainment or other outcomes by reducing unexplained variance.
Our understanding is that SSGAC has received substantially less funding to date than comparable consortia (such as in psychiatric genetics), but still produces high-quality, replicable research and serves as a model of careful public communication, most notably through their discussions of frequently asked questions.