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* Would they support further research in the field of synthetic biology: 52% say yes, 8% say no and 33% are not sure (yet) and the rest didn't state there opinion
* Would they support further research in the field of synthetic biology: 52% say yes, 8% say no and 33% are not sure (yet) and the rest didn't state their opinion
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Revision as of 19:51, 26 October 2010


Human Practice

When we were thinking about how to do human practice, we first wanted to present synthetic biology, the iGEM competition and our team at a stand in the middle of munich. But while discussing what information we wanted to provide, we recognized that we don´t know what people already know about this topic. So we changed our plans and conducted a survey on synthetic biology.

We asked people on their opinion of several topics, including some questions to check on their knowledge. To gather a broad range of participants, we asked people on the "Oktoberfest", in the University of Munich and while waiting at an urban authority.

For the english version of our original questionary, please click here. We also distributed a german version.

The evaluation presents interesting figures of our survey.


Overall we asked 242 people, with an age average of 25 years. Interestingly a bit over 51 % would support further research in synthetic biology and only about 8% wouldn't. The rest wasn't sure (yet). If misuse would have been impossible, 72.3% would support synthetic biology after all. So let's take a closer look at the data to find out why they don't want to support it and what they know about it.

When we asked for misuses the participants would disapprove, we got a huge amount of answers by 54.1% of them but we can only list some of them (and sorted them into several categories): They fear of terrorism, weapons in general, commercial use, improving humans, cloning, commercial use....

About 63% wished to be better informed espacially via TV, radio, newspapers and the internet. Some of them wanted scientific information whereas others wanted general information, explained in an easy way.



Yes we know it is a quite strange idea to go to a crowded place, where everyone goes just to drink beer and have fun, and ask question about such a sophisticated topic as synthetic biology.

But the tempting thing about the Oktoberfest is that it is quiet a international affair, in spite the fact that it should be a typically bavarian tradition. Together with the fact that we thought we would meet quite a broad range of people, and that these might be even more honest having a high blood alcohol, we thought it would be an interesting and maybe quite fun place to go with this survey.

And overall it was the 200. aniversary of this tradition, so it had to be good ...

We asked 86 people on the Oktoberfest with an age average of 26 years. Sadly it wasn't that international as we hoped ... for that we should have gone in the Festzelt (tent were you drink beer and dance drunk on the ale-bench) ... but we did get 13 different nationalities:

  • German (of course)
  • Italien
  • Libanese
  • Australien
  • Austrian
  • English
  • Danish
  • Indish
  • Indonesien
  • South African
  • Turkish
  • American
  • Dutch


Of course ourselves being students, we also wanted to check out what other students thought about the idea of synthetic biology. We thougt, as students do have a high educational standard we might see a difference to what people think at the Oktoberfest.

Our theory in this case was, that people, who aren't informed about a topic that might include possible misuse potential, and therefore might seem frightening, would also have a bad opinion about that subject. So we hoped to see if there might be a correlation between education and knowledge about this particular subject and the support for this subject.

We asked 75 people with an age average of 24 years. Even though we didn't expect it we also found 3 extra nationalities to add to our list:

  • Kanadien
  • Venezuelan
  • French

Urban authority

We did find a broad public at the Oktoberfest, but as many of them were not to say a bit drunk, we thought of another place with many people, that isn't exactly linked to a special group. So we thought of the urban authority, and as people have to wait there for quite a while ... we thought: perfect, let's sugar the pill and shorten there waiting time with a little synthetic biology.

We asked 81 people with the age average of 33 years. And we again found 5 more nationalities:

  • Bosnian
  • Greek
  • Nepalian
  • Kosovan
  • Marrocan


Surprisingly looking at the data there wasn't a severe difference between the three locations as we would have expected.

survey results

A few interesting results:

  • On the Oktoberfest 42% would go for the beer with higher alcohol compared to overall only 28%. (well maybe not that surprising ...)
  • On the Oktoberfest 27% indicated that they have heard of synthetic biology, but taking a closer look to there meeting with synthetic biology, we realised that only 20% might have really heard of synthetic biology ... this shows the overestimating effect of alcohol.
  • 31% and so quite more than on the Oktoberfest had heard of synthetic biology on the university
  • Only 16% had heard of synthetic biology at the urban authority
  • Only 24% on the university were religious compared to overall 38% ...
  • Not interesting, but a difference: 100% of those from the university were students ...

So we will now only show the overall data, as there really was not such a difference between the three locations. Let's first go through the questions and then we will go to special correlations between different answers.

  • Religious belief: just a short diagramm showing the three groups religious (all religions were considered), atheist and agnostic (which was also considered if no statement was made or the field crossed):


  • Profession: again a diagramm showing the different groups we devided them into:


  • heard of synthetic biology: 21%, after taking away those who gave wrong notations for synthetic biology, stated that they have heard of synthetic biology
  • knows Craig Venter: we included this question to exclude those who have only heard of synthetic biology from those who really know the subject. Sadly only 9% stated that they knew who Craig Venter was, some even that hadn't heard of synthetic biology, so that wasn't a good criteria
  • would take medicine created by synthetic biology if had a serious desease: 81% said they would do so
  • would drink beer with higher alcohol percentage created by synthetic yeast: 28% would go for the beer
  • would support research in synthetic biology if protected against misuse: 73% would do so
  • what would be such a misuse: a graphic showing the result, but we needed to categorise the fears:


  • Are they offended by synthetic biology (ethically, morally or religiously): again a graphic to illustrate the result


  • Why are they offended:
  • Do they think the arrangement of gene banks is a good idea: 47% say yes it is a good thing, against the rest who finds it quite frightening
  • Do they feel themselves well equiped with knowledge to such biological topics: 21% say yes
  • Interested in further information: 63% say so and this is how they wish to be informed:


  • Would they support further research in the field of synthetic biology: 52% say yes, 8% say no and 33% are not sure (yet) and the rest didn't state their opinion