The Timing and Process of Citizen Science

PUBLISHED ON January 17, 2019 by marjie alonso

We know a lot of you have been waiting for a kit or results for your dog/s’ DNA results, and we know how frustrating that has been for some of you. We’re very sorry if this has felt discouraging, and we want to assure you that we are working hard, quite literally 7 days a week at times, to get those results and the funding required to do so. We want them as much as you do! By more fully outlining the process below, we hope to better explain why it does take sometimes years to get results.

We made a couple of mistakes early on in not adequately clarifying the scientific process to “civilians”, not in the scientific fields. We also never dreamed that Darwin’s Dogs would be as quickly populated with sample-givers and question-answers as it was. This has led to possibly longer wait times. Because all of our funding comes from grants, and while need has grown, certain situations in federal and other funding sources have caused the amounts issued in grants to often get smaller.

I’d like to clarify a few points and to stress that by all mean, please write to us at if you have any further questions.

This is a citizen science research project, with all of you contributing along with us. There are several for-pay companies that can run your dog’s DNA sequence far more quickly. We’re not a business, and we share all our data freely. This means our results will be used by researchers around the globe searching for causes and cures of illnesses for dogs and humans alike.

Our grant writers, who are also our team scientists, work insane hours, often past midnight, several nights a week, many weeks of the year to procure all the grants possible. In order to get the grants, we need to do the science that supports them. A Catch 22 of epic proportion. No grants, no science. No science, no grants.

Once a grant has been given, we’re required by law to hold to the criteria of that grant, so only dogs whose surveys have been completed on the topic of that grant can be sequenced. If we got an imaginary grant for studying dogs who like tulips, only participants who’d filled out the survey on “flowers your dog likes” could be included in that batch. That’s why we urge you to fill out as many surveys as possible.

We implemented the for-pay option in order to help people get their results sooner if they wanted to, and only if they wanted to. We know how precious and short our dogs’ lives are, and sometimes results just can’t wait. Even without grim reasoning, curiosity also can’t wait sometimes. We get that (we share it), and we hoped that the for-pay track would allow those wanting and able to have a quicker way to get their dog’s DNA sequenced. If you’d like to explore this option, we have more information available on our website.

In no way would we ever suggest that people should pay for their results. We are so sorry if anyone’s felt pushed or coerced in any way. This is absolutely a choice we arranged only in hopes of allowing people another option to get results more quickly.

I hope this answers any questions or concerns you have, but please, truly don’t hesitate to write if you’d like further information. We are a small team – five scientists including our lead scientist Dr. Elinor Karlsson, and she like many on of us are often pulled to other projects needed to move the lab forward, and find ways for more funding.

Lastly, thank you for your participation. As frustrating as it might be, this is going to eventually make a huge difference in the health and lives of pets and their people. None of that could happen without your contributions.

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