Libby Ford and her mother (Image copyright: Libby Ford)
Today the 1000th study using data from the ALSPAC, or Children of the 90s, cohort study has been published in the European Journal of Human Genetics. It’s just one of the many findings to have come out of the study, which has analysed the health and development of 14,000 children since the early 1990s. But what’s it like to grow up as a member of the cohort? Here Libby Ford, whose mother enrolled in ALSPAC when she was pregnant, tells us how it feels to know she’s contributing to medical research.
Growing up it felt perfectly normal to participate in Children of the 90s, as most of the children in my small village primary school did too. But as I grew up I realised that this wasn’t just a part of your average childhood, but actually something special which contributed to valuable research. I feel extremely privileged to have been a part of it.
I still participate in the annual research sessions and questionnaires, and I even opt to take part in further research sessions where I can. I’ve always liked going to the sessions; the staff always made them feel fun, and now I also understand they have a lasting importance. Read more
Suzi Gage is an MRC-funded PhD student at the University of Bristol who uses data from the Children of the 90s study to look at the links between cannabis, psychosis and depression. Here she tells us about the benefits of getting together with other researchers at the SpotOn London conference last weekend.
Along with around 200 others, I spent Sunday and Monday in the basement of the Wellcome Collection discussing science policy, outreach and online tools. I was there because I’d organised a session on academic fraud along with my colleague Dr Pete Etchells. But, being more used to academic conferences, I was also really intrigued about what an event bringing together science communicators, policy types and researchers could offer.
The conference was split into three streams, but swapping between them was encouraged, and I think I managed to attend at least something from each. I was particularly impressed with the ambition of the meeting; session organisers were encouraged to create online material in advance, and to have outputs at the end. This wasn’t just for sitting and absorbing, this was for ACTION. Indeed, one workshop I dropped in on was called ‘what do you need to start a revolution?’. Inspiring? Very much so! Read more
In 1991 and 1992, 14,000 pregnant women in Avon in the West of England signed up to be part of the Children of the 90s study. Over 21 years information about their children — from their first steps to variations in their DNA — has been collected and studied, providing one of the richest resources about child development in the world.
This kind of public participation is essential for the success and future of medical research. Without volunteers to donate time and biological samples, scientists can’t fully understand how we stay healthy and how disease develops.
Part-funded by the MRC, the study has gone from strength to strength. As the young people started to turn 21, we caught up with the scientists who curate and work on this vital collection to find out what the future holds.
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