Guest Talks

Introduction to Epigenetics and high dimensional Epigenome-Wide Association Studies (EWAS) for Perinatal Epidemiology

Andres Cardenas
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Epigenetic modifications are stable and heritable changes to gene expression that occur without directly changing the underlying DNA sequence. These modifications are responsive to early life exposures and events providing a great opportunity in the field of pediatric, perinatal and life course epidemiology. Epigenetics is a rapidly growing field and many studies including large-scale cohorts are currently implementing emerging epigenetic technologies and methods to address complex hypotheses and accelerate scientific discovery. This session will serve as an introduction to general concepts and methods used in epigenetics applied to epidemiological cohorts for the investigation of fetal programming hypotheses with a focus on high dimensional DNA methylation data analyses. The use of epigenetics as biomarkers and or mediators of disease will be discussed. Key concepts of study design, sample collection and processing, platforms for analysis, high dimensional data handling and interpretation will be presented.

Enabling Research on the Causality of Digitalisation

Suso Baleato

The mass adoption of the digital technologies has increased the demand for scientific explanations about the causes and the effects of digitalization. What is the impact of digital communications on elections and political polarization? What is the effect of automation in economic growth, inequality or unemployment? Does open data about emissions reduce contamination? What is the effect of increased access to medical information in public health? What are the determinants of Internet adoption? In order to discern these questions, scientific research requires an accurate description of the Internet, because this infrastructure is the driving force of digitalization. However, the limitations of the official Internet statistics have hampered the capacity of science to develop empirical analysis, because the resolution is typically limited to country-year observations, and because the methodology is subject to different bias sources. Those limitations have been recently solved using a remote-sensing method, recently featured in SCIENCE, which is capable to observe variations on Internet adoption inside countries, and with temporal precision up to a weekly frequency. Instead of relying on reports by statistical offices, this new method relies on observing the actual traffic of the Internet. This way, the remote-sensing approach allows measuring digitalization also in areas where official statistics are not available, and data cannot be retrieved in the field, such as authoritarian regimes or territories experiencing long-term political violence. This session introduced the method and the data towards exploring possible collaborations in the intersection between causality and digitalization. An example application of this data can be seen in our Science paper: