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Guidelines for Ancient DNA Work

More than two dozen researchers have developed new ethical guidelines for conducting ancient DNA research.

The guidelines, which they present in Nature this week, include five main components: the need to follow local regulations, have a plan in place before beginning the work, limit damage to remains, make data publicly available, and engage stakeholders from the outset of a study. "We commit to adhering to these guidelines and expect they will promote a high ethical standard in DNA research on human remains going forward," the authors, led by Muhammad Zahir from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and Hazara University in Pakistan, write.

John Hawks from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in developing the guidelines, tells the New York Times that they are "a step forward." Others, though, tell the Times that the guidelines are vague and are what researchers should already be doing. Additionally, some Indigenous scientists wonder why they were not asked to contribute to the guidelines' development, it adds. "They talk about community engagement but fail to engage the community of researchers who have been involved in that space, too," Nanibaa' Garrison from the University of California, Los Angeles, adds at the Times.