Revision as of 20:44, 26 October 2010 by JB (Talk | contribs)


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: again another graphic


  • 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


Religous belief correlated to support of synthetic biology

As we thougt that people who are religious might feel offended by synthetic biology, we wanted to take a closer look at it to see if it was really so.

  • Of all the people who indicated themselves as religious 43% would support, 15% wouldn't support and 15% weren't sure if they would support...
  • Of all the people who indicated themselves as atheists 48% would support, 5% wouldn't support and 2% weren't sure if they would support...
  • Of all the people who indicated themselves as agnostic or didn't indicate themselves 59% would support, 2% wouldn't support and 33% weren't sure if they would support...

... research in the field of synthetic biology

There seems to be a small tendency, that people who are religious would less support the research, but it isn't really a big tendency

Profession correlated to support of synthetic biology

We thought that the profession might influence how people think about specific subjects. For example people, who work in a trade might not feel as much associated to such scientific fields as someone who is himself an academic.

  • Of all the people who were students 55% would support, 6% wouldn't support and 32% weren't sure if they would support...
  • Of all the people who worked in a trade 40% would support, 11% wouldn't support and 44% weren't sure if they would support...
  • Of all the people who were academics 61% would support, 4% wouldn't support and 28% weren't sure if they would support...

... research in the field of synthetic biology

People working in a trade really do seam to support it less and more of them are unsure than in the other two categories. But again it is not such a big difference.

Profession correlated to if they think DNA in food is dangerous

We thought maybe that the educational status might correlate with how much they are informed about such topics and used this question as an indication for this.

  • Of all the people who were students 27% thought DNA was dangerous, 64% thought it wasn't and 4% weren't sure
  • Of all the people who worked in a trade 48% thought DNA was dangerous, 47% thought it wasn't and 3% weren't sure
  • Of all the people who were academics 39% thought DNA was dangerous, 43% thought it wasn't and 2% weren't sure

Here it seems quite clear that those working in a trade were less informed about such topics. Also academics weren't as informed as students. This could explain why less people working in a trade would support such research and why so many are unsure about such topics, as they aren't informed good enough.

If they think DNA in food is dangerous correlated with if they support synthetic biology

Here we wanted to test the theory, that people who are badly informed or even scared of such biological topics will support it lesser or make them unsure of what they should think about it.

  • Of all the people who thought DNA was dangerous 33% would support, 13% would not support and 45% aren't sure if they would support ...
  • Of all the people who thought DNA wasn't dangerous 66% would support, 5% would not support and 26% aren't sure if they would support ...

... research in the field of synthetic biology

This shows that our theory seems right and that insecurity on such topics leads to disaproval or even more insecurity on the support issue.