Editorials

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  • In this issue of Nature Genetics, we celebrate the legacy of Gregor Mendel, who was born 200 years ago. We also note the 30th anniversary of the launch of Nature Genetics. The convergence of these two milestones helps us to look back on how far the genetics field has come, and also to look to the future to see where we are heading.

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  • The genetics community has a particularly important part to play in accelerating rare disease research and contributing to improving diagnosis and treatment. Innovations in sequencing technology and machine learning approaches have positively affected diagnostic success, but more coordinated efforts are needed to move towards effective therapies or even cures for these important, and sometimes overlooked, class of diseases.

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  • In recent years, large-scale genomic studies have been performed in attempts to determine how genetic variation in the human host influences the gut microbiome. As microbiome traits are very heterogeneous, new analytical approaches are needed to move this field forward. By using genetic tools, there is a huge opportunity to enrich our understanding of the complex link between humans and our intimately associated microbial species.

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  • We kick off 2022 by noting that the 200th anniversary of Gregor Mendel’s birth will be on 20 July 2022. We look forward to celebrating this milestone and reflecting on how far the genetics field has developed in 200 years. Here are some of the things that we are most excited about for 2022.

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  • The language used in genetic and medical research to describe populations has a fraught history, and current practices must be sensitively considered when reporting on genetic cohorts and analyses.

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  • Although it should be a given that scholarly communication must be clear and accurate, researchers, particularly those in the field of human genetics, can also promote the responsible reporting of their findings to a broader public audience in ways that heighten understanding and reduce misinterpretation.

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  • Guided Open Access is a new publishing option offered at Nature Genetics. Authors can submit once and be simultaneously considered by three journals. Editorial collaboration and a single submission system combine to make the publication process easier and faster.

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  • After a year turned upside-down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now with promising vaccine news on the horizon, we can start looking forward to a new year with the hope that 2021 will bring exciting things to the science community. Here, Nature Genetics shares what we are awaiting in 2021.

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  • Genetic tools can help uncover evolutionary histories, migration patterns and admixture events of domesticated animals and their wild ancestors. The genetic window into the past can help shape breeding strategies and inform animal agricultural practices that should lead to a more resilient and sustainable future.

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  • Increasing amounts of crop genomic resources, along with new technical achievements in genome analysis, can facilitate basic and translational research in agriculture, and expand the ability to meet the global challenge of food production and security.

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  • Gene nomenclature can be complicated, and the official naming of genes requires rational standards to avoid confusion and to maximize clarity. The HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee has released updated guidelines for the naming of human genes, and we encourage the community to adopt these recommendations.

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  • When the status quo in science continues to perpetuate ingrained systems of discrimination, inequality and racism, the beneficiaries of these systems must not only reexamine their collective practices but also redress historical injustices through consequential, concrete actions that will lead to change. We cannot focus only on the first steps of listening and learning to build a better, fairer scientific community. We at Nature Genetics fully commit to pledging our energy and efforts toward long-term goals explicitly designed to fundamentally transform how science and its dissemination are conducted.

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  • One of the many consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic is the need for the scientific community to adapt to the cancellation of conferences and events because of travel restrictions and social-distancing guidelines. We have seen a very swift conversion to online meetings, which have allowed for this established form of science communication to continue and opened new avenues for innovation in the reporting of research and discussion of ideas.

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  • The promise of personalized medicine lies in the tailored treatment of individual patients, a process requiring detailed phenotypic and genetic information. Although the widespread collection of such data can help to advance the implementation of precision healthcare, the genomic sequencing data being amassed also include private information that could potentially be used as a basis for genetic discrimination. It is important for the genetics community to be aware of these risks and to contribute to policies designed to monitor and mitigate threats to the equitable treatment of individuals or populations on the basis of genetics.

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  • In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines for the naming of new human infectious diseases. The current global outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus underscores the need to be accurate with our language, particularly as it relates to pandemics.

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  • The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium project, led by the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), coordinated the sequencing and analysis of 2,583 tumor whole genomes across 38 cancer types. This impressively large project, comprising many working groups focusing on various molecular or genetic features of cancer, has generated valuable data for the cancer research community that will continue to be mined for many years to come.

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  • Given that it is based on heredity and has the ability to trace connections, genetics as a scientific discipline should be among those most attuned to diversity and global perspectives. Indigenous communities and scientists have much to contribute to genetics research, and they are making their voices heard. We celebrate these essential members of our larger genetics community, and we look forward to working together to learn from past examples, meet present challenges and support future opportunities.

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  • As we usher in a new year of a new decade and ponder what the future will bring for the genetics field, we wish to reflect on some specific areas related to diversity, privacy and genome editing that require attention and vigilance from the community.

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  • As the year comes to a close and we start to look ahead to 2020, we thought that we would highlight some of our favorite Nature Genetics papers from 2019. This snapshot also captures some of the topics and themes in genetics that we are most excited to see develop in the near future.

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  • Popular crop plants have been bred and selected for desirable taste and color traits. Genomic approaches are increasingly being used to provide insights into the origins, evolution and biology of our favorite foods. Large-scale sequencing efforts have brought agriculture genomics into the big-data era, leading to sweet rewards.

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