Events Calendar

17 Jan
Cryptic Effects at a Distance: Constructing Causal Claims in Fetal Epigenetic Programming Research
Event Type

Lectures, Symposia, Etc.

Topic

Health & Wellness, Technology, Research

Target Audience

Alumni, Faculty, Graduate Students

University Unit
Center for Bioethics and Health Law
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Cryptic Effects at a Distance: Constructing Causal Claims in Fetal Epigenetic Programming Research

Sarah S. Richardson, PhD
Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Harvard University

Abstract: This talk offers a critical analysis of three touchstone research streams linking epigenetic markers with prenatal exposures and later life health in human populations: studies from 2008-2018 of individuals gestated during the Dutch Famine; research on individuals prenatally exposed to a 1998 ice storm in Quebec; and studies of the offspring of Jewish Holocaust survivors. In human studies, maternal intrauterine effects are what Richardson calls cryptic: they are small in effect size, vary depending on ecosocial context, and occur at a great temporal distance from the initial exposure. The fetal epigenetic programming hypothesis functions as a narrative glue that coheres disparate cryptic findings into plausible causal stories. Through close analysis of these research streams, Richardson examines precisely what inferences scientists believe epigenetic studies can support, and how, in practice, scientists construct causal claims in fetal epigenetic programming research, despite the crypticity of their findings.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Human Genetics

Friday, January 17 at 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Public Health, A115
130 Desoto Street, Pittsburgh, 15261

Cryptic Effects at a Distance: Constructing Causal Claims in Fetal Epigenetic Programming Research

Sarah S. Richardson, PhD
Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Harvard University

Abstract: This talk offers a critical analysis of three touchstone research streams linking epigenetic markers with prenatal exposures and later life health in human populations: studies from 2008-2018 of individuals gestated during the Dutch Famine; research on individuals prenatally exposed to a 1998 ice storm in Quebec; and studies of the offspring of Jewish Holocaust survivors. In human studies, maternal intrauterine effects are what Richardson calls cryptic: they are small in effect size, vary depending on ecosocial context, and occur at a great temporal distance from the initial exposure. The fetal epigenetic programming hypothesis functions as a narrative glue that coheres disparate cryptic findings into plausible causal stories. Through close analysis of these research streams, Richardson examines precisely what inferences scientists believe epigenetic studies can support, and how, in practice, scientists construct causal claims in fetal epigenetic programming research, despite the crypticity of their findings.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Human Genetics

Friday, January 17 at 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Public Health, A115
130 Desoto Street, Pittsburgh, 15261

Target Audience

Alumni, Faculty, Graduate Students