Team:NTU-Singapore/Public Engagement



Our human practice started with the growing conversation about gene editing in Singapore. We felt a great responsibility to collect different voices from the local public on gene editing and evaluate the possible social responses to our project. As such, we sought out two opportunities to reach out to our community.

One of them is the Pint of Science festival, where local citizens from all walks of life gather together in a casual setting to discuss scientific innovation and technology, and the other one is targeted to the youth in Singapore at the career day of National Junior College (NJC). In these events, we hope to introduce to our target audience about the latest technologies of gene editing with CRISPR and hear their thoughts and considerations in receiving such a technology. Click on the tabs below to see what we have learned from there.


In this event, we had the advantage to directly interact with our audience, to discuss in depth on the topic of gene editing and find out their opinions. Through the interactions, we want to achieve the folllowing:

•  To introduce the emerging gene editing with CRISPR for its relevance as a future therapy.

•  To understand the public attitude and acceptance towards gene editing in different uses.

•  To know more about their concerns and hesitations regarding gene editing. 

 Event Summary

We engaged with about 50 participants, who represent the more well-educated, science-passionate adults in Singapore. We helped to educate them about the concept of genes, mutation and gene editing tool – CRISPR and its potential application on humans. We asked the audience about what they care most if they were to receive gene therapy. We raised some potential ethical concerns regarding the technology and garnered their opinions regarding these issues. A more detailed report of the event can be found here.

 Key Facts

The public generally hold a very optimistic and receptive view of what gene editing can achieve, with some mentioned that they want more muscles and some dreamed of the society full of people of super-power. Most of them are also open to having their children to inherit their genetic changes if they were to receive gene therapy.

However, the greatest concern is the safety of gene editing. They fear about the potential adverse effect that may be brought about by the change in their genetic makeup. More than 80% of the audience also felt RNA editing would be safer as compared to DNA.

Above 90% of the audience accept genetically modified crops (GMO), as such change does not interfere with human genes directly, and it has been safely used for many years. The support for application of genetic modification in the human genome shows a drop from 80% to 50% to 10% for purposes of curing lethal disease, curing minor disease and changing physicality respectively. This is mainly due to the concern on the safety of this technology and ethical concerns on changing human genome.

 Our Takeaway

As most of our work was based on DNA editing using CRISPR/Cas9, to better align with the public interest of desiring a safer approach to edit their genes, we started to explore ways for RNA editing. We also started to think of how could we improve our current DNA-editing to make it safer and more accepted by the general public.

To gain a deeper understanding of public opinion, we decided to engage more with the public and to collect their opinions through a scientific survey. We felt that only by proper analysis of a sufficiently large sample of survey data can we obtain a convincing enough conclusion.


On the career day at National Junior College, we had the opportunities to target young adults in Singapore to get an idea of their thoughts on the topic of gene editing. In the event, our aims are

•  To survey the youth demographic and understand their attitude towards gene editing.

•  To understand if students with biology background view such technologies differently.

 Event Summary

We engaged about 200 students, teachers and parents by introducing our project and the implications of gene editing. We discussed some key issues on gene therapy via editing DNA and RNA. We collected their opinions through a refined survey after consulting with science communication professors. A more detailed report of the event can be found here.

Figure 1. Our education materials in our outreach

 Key Facts

The participants find gene editing a very powerful tool for disease treatment, and they think that it has the potential to cure or prevent many diseases including cancer. However, the participants do not support for trait enhancement purpose, as they fear that the technology would go unregulated.

Most of the participants choose RNA editing for disease treatment because it is relatively safer. Majority of the students expressed their concern over the permanent side effects of DNA editing if there are off-targets or unknown consequences. However, there are still concerns about the cost of RNA editing if it requires multiple treatments.

From analysis of the survey sample, safety and cost are the biggest concerns, and more people favor RNA editing over DNA editing.

 Our Takeaways

From two small samples, we were confident that RNA editing would be a more popular choice by the public. Therefore, we started to think of what we could contribute to research in RNA editing. We were also ready to formally expand our survey to the national or even to the international level to see if results differ.


After our engagement with both the working adults and the youth in Singapore, we felt two things are necessary. Considering the vast diversity of the Singaporean population, there are more people from all walks of lives to be considered. Whether they are young immigrants or senior citizens and regardless of their social-economic background, it is possible for everyone to face such choices in their time. Also, being a popular destination for premium medical tourism, our choices regarding gene therapy also affect many more in this region. Hence, it would be necessary to compare the local attitude with other countries in the region, making sure that the Singapore society shares a similar view as the region. As such, these remaining questions and second thoughts motivated us to take our human practice to the next step.