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Epigenetics and Social Science Workshop

12 June 2017

An afternoon workshop took place on 8 June 2017 at Engineers House involving about 40 academics. There were epigenetics presentations and a lively panel discussion focusing on the population sciences and social perspectives of epigenetics.

Hosts

The event was hosted by Professor Caroline Relton and formed part of the  'E4: Epigenetics: Environment, Embodiment and Equality' and 'Interstela: Interpreting epigenetic signatures in studies of early life adversity' projects (ESRC and BBSRC funded)

Presentations

The first part of the workshop consisted of the following presentations:

  • DNA methylation and the business cycle (Dr Paul Yousefi)
  • Childhood adversity and epigenetic variation (Dr Lotte Houtepen)
  • Exposure prediction using methylation signatures (Dr Matthew Suderman)
  • An epigenome-wide association study of educational attainment (Dr Neil Davies)

Panel responses and sociological angle

The panel members then responded to the initial sessions and provided an enlightening sociological angle. Panel members were:

  • Professor George Davey Smith (Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Bristol)
  • Professor Nancy Krieger (Professor of Social Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health)
  • Dr Andrew Bartlett (Research Associate, Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield)
  • Dr Maurizio Meloni (Senior Research Fellow, University of Sheffield)

Panel perspectives on epigenetics and health inequities

This was followed by the panel perspectives on epigenetics and health inequities based on the individual panel members perspectives of the following questions:

  • What are the implications for epigenetics in understanding and addressing health inequities (and what do we even mean by health inequities, within and between countries, especially in relation to racism, class and gender)?
  • What kinds of ways are needed to theorize about history (life course, intergenerational, societal) for understanding links between epigenetics and health inequities?
  • What kinds of ways are needed to theorize about inheritance (socially & biologically) for understanding links between epigenetics and health inequities?

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