Public dialogue to spur genome editing engagement?
The online Engage Festival, organised by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) brought together public engagement and science communication professionals from across the UK and beyond for discussions, knowledge exchange and networking. At the conference, Babraham Institute Public Engagement Officer Dr Emma Martinez ran a session about the use of public dialogues as a tool for public engagement.
Dr Martinez presented the process, method and set-up of a series of public dialogues held across four European countries as part of the Open Responsible research and Innovation to further Outstanding kNowledge (ORION) project. The objective of the ORION public dialogue was to explore the challenges and opportunities genome editing presents; the hopes and fears of members of the public regarding the use of genome editing techniques; and how ORION partner organisations should communicate about and engage society with this emerging technology.
The Engage session featured four ORION partners: CEITEC (Czechia), Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) (Germany), VA (Public & Science) (Sweden) and the Babraham Institute (UK). Each institution was invited to present their reasons for participating in the public dialogue, the main challenges they encountered and the expected impact of the activity. Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn, an Epigenetics Group Leader and Head of Public Engagement, participated as a researcher in the dialogue in Cambridge coordinated by the Babraham Institute. He commented:
“Our motivation [for participating] was to understand the public opinion of genome editing in relation to our work and learn what we could do to address any concerns. The aim was to inform the next round of our public engagement strategy. The dialogue provided scientists at the Institute with a valuable opportunity to engage with a diverse range of views and stakeholders.”