Team:Hong Kong-CUHK/Human practice
Synthetic biology emerges as a multidisciplinary technology. Not only does it allow us to change the way we live, it does also improve the quality of life1. Synthetic biology becomes an integral part of our life. But the acceptance of synthetic biology is still divergent.
In July 2002, the researchers at the State University of New York announced that they had synthesized the deadly and virulent poliovirus2. So the opponents of synthetic biology showed worries about how easy it is for the scientists to construct life and bioweapons which may wreak havoc to the environment and human life.
In September 2010, a poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Hart Research Associates and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center showed that about two-third of Americans thought synthetic biology should be further developed with more understanding on the possible effect on human and the environment, but the others opposed and suggested a ban on it3.
Another poll about synthetic biology also reflected that 27 percent of participants thought that synthetic biology might have security concerns like making use of it to make harmful things. While 25 percent of participants believed that it might have moral concerns that would affect the health of human. And 13 percent of participants showed worries about the possible damages to the environment3.
As a result, CUHK iGEM team is aspired to provide space of discussion for the public to delve into the biosafety and biosecurity of Synthetic biology, according to David Regeski, the Director of the Synthetic Biology project who conducted the poll, “Much more attention needs to be paid to addressing biosafety and biosecurity risks” 3. Therefore, throughout these months, we have been actively engaging in human practices to address the synthetic biology safety and security issue to allow the public to get more insights.
Approaches to acquire people’s opinions on synthetic biology
In order to get a better understanding of how people from different disciplines perceive synthetic biology, CUHK iGEM team has been consistently adopting many ways to collect the public idea on this issue.
To collect large sample size effectively from public perception on the synthetic biology, we conducted a questionnaire to distribute through the website. In the questionnaire, we set general questions for people from different backgrounds to easily understand synthetic biology, and at the same time effectively acquire their views.
Others than the public, we also set up the ethics part of synthetic biology from practitioners with different specialties. In the ethics part, the information collected ranges from the possible ethical issue of synthetic biology to the possible solutions to the existing ethic problem.
With these approaches adopted, we acknowledge diverse views and opinions from the public to formulate the most suitable and effective action to raise people’s awareness on the social and ethical aspect of synthetic biology.
In order to introduce synthetic biology to the public as well as to ease their concerns about the bio-safety problems of synthetic biology, CUHK iGEM team organized a variety of human practices targeting different audiences.
Our human practices focus on three main parts, namely education, promotion and biosafety.
For the education, we arranged radio program, we introduced what synthetic biology was and discussed about the possible solutions to tackle the biosafety problems regarding to synthetic biology. We hope that the radio program stirs public interest about synthetic biology and at the same time, eases their worries about the biosafety issues.
Our team takes biosafety issues very seriously. In addition to employing "risk management" approach in our research work, our instructors have also conducted a risk assessment report. Not only do we focus on the biosafety of the individual researchers, we also concern the biosafety of the public and the environment. As a result, we proposed a number of safety measures to ensure that neither the public nor the environment will be harmed. We also provided suggestions about the biosafety issues of synthetic biology for the future iGEM teams.
1 The emerging of synthetic biology: http://www.technologyreview.com/article/14077/
2 OECD, Royal Society (2010), “Symposium onOpportunities and Challenges in the Emerging Field of Synthetic Biology –Synthesis Report”
"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." - Theodore Levitt
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