iGEM Dundee 2013 · ToxiMop

Our Human Practices is the exploration into environmental, political, sociological, legal, ethical, economic, and philosophical dimensions of synthetic biology. In this pursuit, we have attempted to engage the public with synthetic biology and our project. The Dundee Life Sciences sector contributes to 16% of the local economy, making it crucial that we keep the public involved in what we do.

Having discussed the issues surrounding park closures due to algal bloom outbreaks, the team felt that the current testing and safety procedures implemented at the park were in need of questioning. To investigate the suitability of these procedures, the team started the Mop Campaign with the intention of bringing together law legislators and scientists. Furthermore, to bridge the gap between the scientific research and public legislation, we brought together representatives of local parliament, environmental agencies, respected researchers, local park rangers and members of Friends of the Earth. Together they discussed synthetic biology, how to deal with algal blooms and provided us with feedback to help guide our project.

Additionally, we attempted to engage people from a wide range of age groups in order to educate them on the problems caused by algal blooms and propose how synthetic biology could provide a solution. We aimed to achieve this by attending events or setting up meetings with groups from a variety of settings, such as:

  • School Science Workshops
  • Undergraduate Teaching Practicals
  • Cafe Science
  • Dundee Tech Meetup
  • Friends of the Earth
  • SEPA – Scottish Environmental Protection Agency

Some additional novel approaches we took to captivate the public eye were through a comic book and video game. These entertained our audiences, particularly the younger generation, and demonstrated a lighter side to synthetic biology.

Furthermore, we took advantage of current social media set ups to engage a larger audience. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and Google+ were all updated on a regular basis to communicate our progress and achievements.

Dundee’s slogan, “One City, Many Discoveries” encompasses the progressive attitude of the city and its people. Through our human practice activities we found that the public were open to the possibilities offered by exciting new technologies such as synthetic biology.