Through organizing different events related to education and public engagement, we introduced the concept of synthetic biology and our bioluminescence project to the public.
Education – Shanghai Primary School
We went to the Shanghai Primary School on Friday for two consecutive weeks during June. There, we introduced 5th grade students with the concept of synthetic biology, an area that they haven’t heard of before. They immediately showed interest and asked a lot of questions about how synthetic biology is used nowadays in our daily life and the safety considerations. Some of them even claimed they want to be synthetic biologists in the future and create all kinds of plants with different characteristics. We feel honored to have introduced these kids to synthetic biology at such an early stage since they may actually become synthetic biologists in the future and shape the field. Through communicating with them, we also paid a lot more attention on the safety of our methods during the design process.
We gathered opinons about our project and bioluminescence in general from a total of 391 people. Most of them have already heard about bioluminescnece, and they expressed a certain amount of concern about plants that are auto-luminescent after being genetically modified.
2. Social Media
We created several different social media accounts to post updates on our current lab progress.
We posted our survey on Modian.com, where we were able to post updates on our labwork as a mean to communicate with our donators and the public who might be interested in supporting our project.
Besides gathering comments from the public, we are also posting our current work and our thoughts about it on social media. In a way, through utilizing the advantage of posting our surveys on our social media accounts, we are establishing an indirect two-way dialogue with our community by asking for their opinions and responding to their opinions through modifying our experimental methods to a certain extent.
Public Outreach-Shanghai Botanical Garden
On October 15th, after we finalized our project, we organized another activity to engage with the public. We prepared a simplified version of our experimental concepts and used a poster and brochures to engage with our audience.
Through establishing a two-way dialogue with a new community, mainly composed of adults and teenagers with their own opinions, we discussed the public values of what our project could bring to the public in the future. We focused on the applications of our project and discussed the possible harms that bioluminescent products could cause to our health and the environment. We further clarified the misconceptions about GMOs being a dangerous threat to our heath. We were surprised that we achieved new insights through communicating with people who may not have expertise in the field.