The effort to collect samples of DNA from diverse populations strives to overcome alleged public misunderstanding of its aims.

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Ken Weiss
MISINTERPRETED: "We need to show that this is just not a group of self-perpetuating insiders," says HGDP committee chairman Ken Weiss.
Members of a National Research Council (NRC) panel evaluating the issues-both controversial and prosaic-surrounding the proposed Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) have their hands full. Conceived about five years ago and still in the planning stages, HGDP aims to collect DNA samples from the estimated 4,000 to 8,000 distinct human populations that exist today to create a database that details cultural and genetic diversity. The information will help researchers learn more about the genetics of diseases and human evolution, among other topics.

Last month the 15-person NRC committee, commissioned by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, heard testimony from the project's...

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