26 September, 2018
In my opinion, the answer to this question is by incorporating different views in problem solving processes. This is precisely what we sought to do during the ORION workshop on genome editing research at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF). ORION, a project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, seeks to open up the way we organise, fund and perform research by co-creating with different people. With more than 4,000 people attending each year, the largest interdisciplinary science meeting in Europe, ESOF seemed the perfect place for this experiment as it offered a unique opportunity for interaction and debate for scientists, innovators, policy makers, business people and citizens.
The 8th ESOF Conference took place in Toulouse from 9th – 14th July 2018, with the theme of ʺSharing Science: Towards New Horizonsʺ. Aligned with the conference’s theme and with the title ‘Can the public shape the future of genome editing research?’, the ORION session focussed on new ways for sharing science by bringing a multidisciplinary audience together with policy-makers, scientists, bioethicists, public engagement professionals and patient representatives to discuss key dilemmas that we may face as we seek to engage the public as the field of genome editing progresses.
Key questions discussed were:
Through the workshop, I tried to consider if there were shifts in attitudes towards these areas by polling the audience before and after the discussion session. Whilst the testing wasn’t as robust as we would have liked - some people came in and out during the session – we collected some interesting information:
The observed shifts in attitudes suggest that the exchange of viewpoints throughout the workshop helped the audience to build their understanding of the potential challenges in the field and how they could support processes in these areas.
Throughout this interactive and participatory session we witnessed how changes in attitudes can occur when relevant information is readily available. Similar experiments on public attitudes to genome editing research are being planned for the near future in the form of an ethics workshop and a public dialogue project at the Babraham Institute and partner organisations. Keep an eye on our public engagement bulletin or subscribe to our quarterly ORION project newsletter to keep track of our future activities on genome editing research and Open Science!
Image credit: Dr. Emma Martinez, ORION Open Science Officer, Babraham Institute
26 September 2018