Team:Heidelberg/Human Practices/Notebook/Psychology


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This notebook includes the important dates for both psychological parts: the construction of a questionnaire and the psychological study.


After my decision of joining the iGEM team 2010, we had the first unofficial human practice team meeting with Marcus (the philosopher) and Dominik at the BioQuant-institute in Heidelberg. Dominik gave Marcus and me a short introduction into synthetic biology and together we discussed our expectations for the following project.


Our first official meeting with the human practice team (which consists at that time of Laura, Dominik, Phillip, Marcus, Jan and me). Marcus introduced our team into the basic methods of Philosophy and I told them something about Psychology and its usual procedure. Afterwards we talked about possible projects of the human practice this year. Referring the psychological part we thought for the first time of doing a psychological study or something like this.

April until June 2010

During the first time I constantly considered different psychological projects as possibilities for a human practice. I looked at related scientific fields of synthetic biology like genetics or genetic engineering to get inspiration for my project. Considering genetic engineering, its negative perception here in Germany and the resulting scientific problems I got the idea of doing a psychological project studying the acceptance of synthetic biology. Focusing on that I made an extensive literature research considering following questions: Are there studies about synthetic biology and its acceptance yet? Do studies exist of genetic engineering and its acceptance? What influences people’s acceptance of a new development? Are there qualitative good tools for measuring people’s acceptance? Unfortunately the literature research was not very successful: I have neither found studies measuring people’s acceptance referring synthetic biology nor a good instrument for measuring acceptance of a biological field in general. Referring the main influence of people’s acceptance I found a big correlation to their knowledge. On this base I developed the idea of measuring people’ knowledge and their acceptance of synthetic biology. Furthermore I decided to create a good and methodically correct questionnaire for measuring acceptance of SynBio.


I told the team about the theme of my psychological study and the two parts of the psychological part of the human practice (1. construction of a questionnaire; 2. psychological study). Afterwards we began with working on the first part by introducing my team members into the steps of construction of a questionnaire:

a) Clarify of the construct (acceptance)
b) Generating an Itempool
c) Creation of the questionnaire preversion
d) Data collection (sample of analysis 1)
e) Itemanalysis and Itemselection
f) Creation of the questionnaire endversion
g) Experimental Validation
h) Data collection (sample of analysis 2)
ji) Analysis and Evaluation


Using the rational construction principle, the first step of construction a questionnaire was to specify our construct, we're going to measure. In general we decided to measure the attitude of our participants depending on their knowledge of Synthetic Biology. The knowledge will be manipulated during the study (so called “Happening”), so that we can use the finished questionnaire at the end to test their attitudes and acceptance referring SynBio. As an important condition for generating questions (Items) for the questionnaire, we decided to clarify our construct, the attitude of something. (acceptance is a positive attitude). For that we first came up with our associations referring acceptance. Secondly we generated the continuum of attitude with its implication of subjective and objective opinion making.


As homework, everybody of the Human Practice Team had to create as much as possible items referring the knowledge of Synthetic Biology and its acceptance, until this HP-meeting. During the meeting, we collected the Items and discussed every Item respective to its theoretical importance, formulation and similarity to other Items. For each Item we decided either to keep or to eliminate it. At the end we kept some Items to test the knowledge of SynBio, a pool of 40 items for the acceptance scale and 4 Items referring the appliance and defining of Synthetic Biology. These items were the base of the questionnaire perversion.

21.7.2010 – 28.07.2010

We decided to create the preversion as an online version, so that the test can be distributed to a big amount of people in a little while. Before we could finish the preversion, we had to write an introduction of synthetic biology (the test-person of the online preversion doesn't know anything about synthetic biology, so they have to read the introduction before they can form their opinion about SynBio and answer the questionnaire). Besides of the introduction of SynBio we formulated a general introduction and invented a title of the questionnaire ("SynBio-Questionnaire"). Last but not least we checked the items and their fitting again (have every aspect been represented? Are there some double items? Do we have to reformulate the item into a negative or positive way?).

In the end, we finished the preversion and created the online questionnaire. The link, where you can find the questionnaire is:

Items preversion

01.08.2010 - 13.08.2010

The execution of the questionnaire-preversion lasted 13 days. We distributed the link of our questionnaire via online-forums, university mailing lists and sent it to our friends and family. In the end we had 130 test-subjects, who filled in the questionnaire.


After collecting the data the next step in the construction process was the statistical analysis. I used SPSS, a special statistic program. Within the statistical analysis I proved the reliability (does the questionnaire measures its construct adequate), the characteristics of the items and the descriptive statistics (like age, sex, education and employment). This analysis was base of the following selection. From the 40 items of the preversion we selected only the 20 best with the best characteristics. These 20 items were the first part of the questionnaire endversion.


The second part of the endversion consists of the validity items. Validation is another important criterion for the wealth of a questionnaire. It shows if the questionnaire really measure what it is meant to measure (that mean if we really measuring the acceptance toward synthetic biology). To create these items every member of the human practice team had the homework to think about constructs which are either
a) theoretical near to our construct (convergent validity) or
b) have nothing to do with our construct (discriminant validity)

In the meeting we collected the ideas: attitude toward genetic engineering (convergent), intelligence (discriminant), attitude toward engineering (convergent), openness for values (convergent). Until the next meeting everybody should think which construct fitted the most for the validation.


In this human practice team meeting we started with the planning oft he Happening. We talked about how we imagine the study, what we want to manipulate exactly and what we expect. Because we wanted to manipulate the level of knowledge we decided to divide the participants into three groups, which receive different type of knowledge:
a) first group: no (basic) knowledge
b) second group: theoretical knowledge
c) third group: theoretical and practical knowledge
Furthermore we finished the discussion about the validation and agreed in integrating the construct “openness for values” as a construct of convergent validity into the questionnaire.


Our team talked about organizational things like the room occupation plan for the happening, the catering, the recruiting of the participants and some more things. Beside of this we created a first version of a notice for recruiting the participants. To improve the notice we decided to send them to our Weimar team (which consists of designer and so have more experience in designing something).


Start of the recruiting of the participants. We recruited the test-subjects via a notice posted on campus and public offices, via an advertisement on a local newspaper and the local newspaper website and via personal contact. The recruiting lasted until the 15th of September 2010.

03.010.2010 – 16.10.2010

During this two week we organized everything for the psychological study, we wrote the oral presentation and planed the practical part of the last group (movie). On the 10th of September 2010 we had a human practice meeting to summarize the intermediate result.


Day of the final rehearsal.




22.09.2010 – 25.09.2010

I spent the time to feed my computer with the data of the happening. Altogether I had to fill in about 5780 responses.

05.10.2010 – 07.10.2010

I analyzed the data from the psychological study. I analyzed the descriptive statistics, significant effects of knowledge (is there a difference between the different level of knowledge considering their acceptance), validation and the items referring the application of synthetic biology.

11.10.2010 – 23.10.2010

During this time I wrote down the results of the psychological human practice project. I wrote two separate paper, one about the construction of the questionnaire and the other about the psychological study.


I translated the material like the oral speech, used during the psychological study (the study was in German and so I had to translate them).


Finishing of my notebook and presentation on the wiki.