On October 27-31 the international Genetic Engineering Machine competition (iGEM) welcomed 3,000 attendees to Boston for the Giant Jamboree, the annual gathering of students presenting their projects. We congratulate the eight SYNENERGENE sponsored iGEM teams who presented their fantastic work. It was an honour for us to work with them.
Doing It Together Science (DITOs) will implement many innovative participatory event formats across Europe focusing on the active involvement of citizens in two critical areas: the cutting edge topic of biodesign and the pressing area of environmental monitoring. The project will advance the EU Responsible Research and Innovation agenda by moving beyond more traditional approaches into direct engagement that builds upon DIY, grassroots, and frugal innovation initiatives so that in the short and medium term we sustain localized capacity building and in the long term, the effects of these grassroots efforts channel into policy action at different levels.
In the past years, there has been a growing interest within the art and design community to engage with life sciences—from growing biomaterials (i.e., make mycelium furniture) to designing genetic circuits (i.e., explore bacterial photography) or working with the latest gene editing kits (i.e., DIY “CRISPR” kits) for mere curiosity.
Given this interest, a growing number of makerspaces, community biolabs, and informal learning environments become hubs for informal science education. However, teaching biology outside traditional academic environments has its challenges. Here, I will briefly discuss how I approached some of the challenges with a recent workshop series I gave at Genspace Community Biolab in Brooklyn, New York.
The last weekend of October 2016, I was at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, USA, to meet as many members of the iGEM community as possible and present them with a tool we developed for them in order to support the community for a responsible research and innovation process. It is an easy-to-use visual tool that will allow iGEM teams to do Integrted Human Practices in their own way and independent from our supervision. We called it ‘the iGEMer’s Guide to the Future’.
Notions of ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ (RRI) or ‘Responsible Innovation’ have evolved over at least ten years, both in the EU and the US. An important driver appears to be that governments have felt the need to better manage societally and ethically (potentially) problematic areas of research and development (R&D) such as synthetic biology (synbio) – aiming to shape R&D processes early on in order to align them better with societal expectations.
SYNENERGENE is a four-years mobilization and mutual learning action plan (MMLAP) supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme. The project aims at initiating and fostering public dialogue on synthetic biology and mutual learning processes among a wide variety of stakeholders from science, industry, civil society, education, art and other fields.