Education & Public Engagement
The importance of learning has been a priority for our project from the beginning. From start, our project have been focused on learning from, and sharing our knowledge with society in order to raise public awareness of our project. In the beginning of our project we got the impression that public awareness about protein folding and chaperones seems to be somewhat sparse. This is something we wanted to change.
We attempted to make a change in public awareness about our topic by focusing on education. In order to engage the public during events we tried to spread some of the valuable knowledge we have gained throughout the project. Through our collaborations and integrated human practice we were also given the experience of other iGEM teams, society and different stakeholders.
Podcast: Attempting Science
An effective way of updating and staying updated nowadays is through podcasts. Since podcasts have the potential to reach a large group of people and can be about virtually anything one finds interesting or funny we though this was a good way to reach out to a larger audience with our project. The result became a podcast that has been updated on a regular basis throughout our project called "Attempting Science". In this podcast we talked about our project, in order to get a slightly broader range of subjects we also talked about other interested subjects relating to our fields of study and synthetic biology. After the Nordic iGEM conference we also invited the iGEM team from Chalmers University to participate. In this episode we talked about their project and about problems we have been facing along the way.
By posting our episodes on Soundcloud anyone could listen to them. We also posted about our podcast on our social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) to increase the reach of each episode. This let us achieve one of our goals, to find a fun way to let people learn more about synthetic biology and to reach out with our project. It is avaliable on our Youtube and Soundcloud!
- A podcast given a glance is a podcast with a great chance.
Engineers Without Borders Sweden
Engineers Without Borders Sweden is an organisation that is trying to solve problems linked to sustainable development goals around the world by implementing their engineering expertise. One of their many goals is to inform young students about what being an engineer means, and how diverse that role is so more people might become interested in pursuing a career in engineering.
During the spring this year Engineers Without Borders in Linköping hosted a tour of the campus for secondary school students. The tour aimed at inspiring young students to pursue a higher education, and to show what you can do during, and after your studies. As this fitted well with our goal to reach out with our project we got to be one of the stops on the tour. At our stop we held a short introduction into the field of synthetic biology and our project, focusing on the diversity of the field.
The Summer Week - Sommarveckan
Another way for us to reach out to the public and to inspire people to become more interested in science was to participate in an event called "Sommarveckan". Sommarveckan is an annual event organised by Linköping University. During this event secondary school students get to come to the university for a couple of days to try out scientific experiments and to learn about the mechanisms connected to the experiments they perform.
Leading up to the event we planned an experiment themed "Discovering chemistry".
This resulted in a lab where the students got to extract DNA from a kiwi fruit. After the experiments we talked about what one does with the DNA after it has been extracted. Based on what the students had done in the lab, we then supervised a discussion on synthetic biology and showed what we were doing in our project. Hopefully, this helped spark an interest in science and in wanting to learn new things.
Kalasmottagningen is a welcoming fair for new students at Linköping University where they can meet and join different student organisations. This gives a brilliant opportunity for new students to get introduced to the student life. This year about 8 000 students attended and LiU iGEM had a stand at the fair.
Through this event we got the opportunity to talk to a lot of new students, organisations and companies about LiU iGEM, iGEM and our Synthetic Biology project at the convention.
TED-events are incredibly popular and it is a great way of spreading a message worldwide.
TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that brings people together to share a TED-like experience.
According to us in LiU iGEM this was a way to both inform and being informed as well.
By getting invited by the local team of TEDxNorrköping we found a golden opportunity to let the public hear what we want to convey.
We provided also with help finding three other speakers for the event that went well with our theme.
These speakers were Peter Påhlsson, Andreas Eriksson and Jenny Hagenblad.
About 70 people were in the audience during the TEDx-event.
A video will be uploaded to TEDx:s website and with that, hopefully reach many more.
The video will soon be available on TEDx:s YouTube-channel:
TEDx official YouTube-page.
Integrated Human Practices
Why We Chose to Do Integrated Human Practice
The idea that is presented here on our wiki has evolved a lot since we first started the journey towards the Giant Jamboree 2018.
Through involving different stakeholders, experts, and the public we managed to get the best out of our work.
During the process of evolving our project we frequently asked the following questions:
Since we started asking these questions, our project has changed focus.
Our idea changed from gaining insight into how chaperones in E.coli can be used to study protein folding in neurodegenerative diseases, to focusing on increasing protein production by facilitating the folding process.
This development came from a number of steps taken within the project. By continuing reading, we will do our best in order to guide you through these steps.
Survey - Letting the Public Influence What We Do in The Lab
During the course of the project, we became interested in finding out how much the general public in Linköping knows about the field of Synthetic Biology and also what opinions they have about how it should be applied.
In order to find this out, we decided to conduct a survey.
The survey answered by randomised people in Linköping. We conducted the survey by walking around in the city core and asking people to participate in the survey. This would make the survey more randomised than doing it digitally. In other words, the survey would give a better view of the public opinion.
The survey was constructed with the help of Marie Berlin, who has much experience within the field of social science and writing surveys.
Marie Berlin is a PhD student in sociological demography at the Department of Sociology at Stockholms University. Marie Berlin is also a research assistant at the Department of Social Work at Stockholm University and an investigator at the National Board of Health and Welfare.
Through her help as our social science expert, she could give us feedback and we could construct the following survey questionnaire:
Survey Questionnaire: LiU iGEM .
To get a broad perspective of samples, we went to central Linköping to find participants for our survey.
This resulted in a total of 92 participants and a mean age of ~37 years (see figure 1).
Through this survey, we got the opinion of the public concerning our project (and Synthetic Biology in general). With that in mind, we could let it influence our work. For one, we adjusted our way of presenting the project to the public, but we also made changes in the lab.
In the survey, the participants were asked to rate their knowledge about synthetic biology. The results can be seen in the diagram, figure 4, where people had to answer a multiple choice question. The answers varied from “none” to "very much”.
The results also showed that the public prioritises synthetic biology in research over production of pharmaceuticals and other industrial production, as can be seen in figure 3. The blue bar correlates to the amount of people who put research as the highest priority, the red one to industry and the green bar to production of pharmaceuticals.
This result, together with discussions within the team and with our PI's, made us switch from a focus on trying to understand the mechanisms behind protein folding in E.coli to one focusing on trying to increase the amount of correctly folded proteins. Because the survey showed that the public is more concerned with research than with e.g. industry, we chose to test our system of chaperones on proteins used in research at Linköping University. The type of research we focused on was the research of neurodegenerative diseases because our PI’s research focuses on this particular field. That gave us easy access to material and proteins related to a specific research.
Age distribution of participants. The Y-axis represents the age of the participants. The mean age of the participants was 37 years.
The diagram shows the gender distribution of the participants of the survey. The Y-axis gives the amount of people who answered the survey. X-axis shows if the participant is either male or female. The gender distribution was 50% male and 50% female.
This figure illustrates the prioritisation of all fields. The top prioritised field was research about diseases, secondly pharmaceutical production and lastly industrial production.
This diagram shows the answer rate to how much the public knows about genetically modified microorganisms, where the answers variated from "none" to "very much" on the x-axis and number of people on the y-axis.
As can be seen, most people feel that they have poor knowledge about the field of synthetic biology. This is something that should be taken into account when trying to communicate what we are doing in the lab. As a result of this, we tried to communicate our project through multiple channels. For example: when we took care about the Instagram account aimed at potential and current students at Linköping University (LiU Student at instagram) we tried to tell what we are doing through short videos, pictures and short texts. Instagram post in swedish We hope that this proved a more engaging way to find out about the project.
We asked the public about what they think GMO:s should be used for, which can be seen in figure 5, 6, 7 and 8. Overall, the majority of the public agree that GMO should be used for research about diseases, production of medicine and research about biological fuels. Only when asked if GMO should be used for industrial production, less than half did agree completely.
In conclusion, from the results, we gathered that the public is more concerned and has a more negative attitude to industrial production, see figure 6.
The diagram shows the answer rate to what the public thinks, concerning if GMOs should be used in research about diseases, where the answers variated from "Agree completely" to "Do not agree" on the x-axis and number of people on the y-axis.
This diagram shows the answer rate to what the public thinks, concerning if GMOs should be used in industrial production, where the answers variated from "Agree completely" to "Do not agree" on the x-axis and number of people on the y-axis.
This diagram shows the answer rate to what the public thinks, concerning if GMOs should be used in production of medicine, where the answers variated from "Agree completely" to "Mainly do not agree" on the x-axis and number of people on the y-axis.
This diagram shows the answer rate to what the public thinks, concerning if GMOs should be used in research about biological fuels where the answers variated from "Agree completely" to "Mainly do not agree" on the x-axis and number of people on the y-axis.
As previously said, the results from this survey showed us that the public has poor knowledge of GMO:s. This means that we should communicate better to the public about GMO, their potential and how the scientific community use GMO. The reason we chose to ask the public and try to have the survey as random as possible, is due to the fact that we want to create a realistic representation of the public.
In conclusion, we found that the public of Linköping sees research about diseases as their top priority. People asked in the survey agreed more to the use of GMO:s in research about diseases, secondly pharmaceutical/medicine production and lastly industrial production.
We believe, and hope, that our composite part, BBa_K2671420, fulfils these wishes by being co-expressed with proteins related to neurodegenerative diseases. To fulfil the wishes of the public we chose to express the substrates Amyloid-ß1-42, Tau-0N4R and α-synuclein [1, 2, 3].
QuotesThe following quotes are answers that were put under the section other in the survey. They have been translated freely from Swedish.
- I know very little about this!
- Good luck!!
- Good Luck! But remember that this [Synthetic Biology] is very a complex field, and that there are some big ethical issues along the way!
- Generally, I'm very doubtful when it comes to manipulation of "genetic material", but I should learn more about this!
- I choose production of pharmaceuticals as my priority field because we need to help sick people. And second priority - Science, because we need to find resources to be able to find cures.
- I hope someone could find a cure for dementia. 4>