DNA.Land was founded to unite the intellectual power of geneticists from Columbia University and the New York Genome Center with crowdsourced data from genealogists around the world. It had the dual goal of providing useful tools—like relative matching, ethnicity estimates, and trait reports—to users for free while harnessing large-scale data to advance genetic discoveries.
Yesterday, DNA.Land announced that it is separating from the two academic institutions and restructuring as a commercial enterprise. The genealogy community will be relieved to know that DNA.Land 2.0 will offer many of the same services, however DNA data currently stored by the academic version of DNA.Land will not be transferred to the commercial version. The existing data will be deleted on 29 September 2019. People who want to continue to use the service can upload again starting 1 October 2019.
This Is the Right Thing to Do
As of mid-September, DNA.Land contains over 163,000 genomes. Having to delete all of them will be a huge set-back for them, and rebuilding the database from scratch will take time. I admire the DNA.Land team for taking this step.
Academia has a strong ethical principle guiding human research called “informed consent”. Human subjects in research projects must be told in accessible language (not legalese) of the potential risks and rewards, and they must explicitly agree to participate. Such projects are evaluated on an ongoing basis by independent oversight committees called Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to ensure that the methods used are ethical and that risks and benefits to participants are fairly balanced.
DNA.Land has always abided by these principles. Because DNA.Land 2.0 will no longer be monitored by the same IRB (the Biomedical Research Alliance of New York Institutional Review Board), the DNA data cannot be transferred ethically from the original site to which informed consent was given.
If you use DNA.Land, or if you’re interested in trying it, there’s no need to take action yet. The new format will launch on 1 October 2019. You’ll be able to recreate an account and upload your data from your original testing site, just like before. The new site will offer “many of the same services“.
In the meantime, you may want to screenshot your reports there, just in case. (Thanks to Jennifer Zinck of Ancestor Central for this important reminder.)
As always, I encourage you to read the Terms of Service before you upload to any third-party site.
Updates to This Post
17 Sep 2019—Noted that the data will be deleted on 29 Sep, not 30 Sep as original written. Thank you to Annie Murray for catching that error.