Team:Bielefeld-Germany/Public Relations/Public Discussion


Public Discussion

Public Relation is one of the keynotes of the iGEM competition. The goal is to access science to the public. This is especially important in the German speaking area, where the broad public has above-average concerns about biotechnology. Terms like "synthetic biology", "mutation" or "directed evolution" have unusual bad connotations in the German culture.

Public articles

In order to get more people in touch with the competition, we created the first german Wikipedia article. We appreciate all the slight corrections done by all the unknown wikipedia reviewers.

  • We created the first german iGEM wikipedia article

iGEM Wiki Article

Public Events

Science Café, Ratscafé KaffeeKunst, Bielefeld 10/26/2010:

Access scientific issues to the public is one of our main keynotes during the project. Hence we did a public discussion concerning Synthetic Biology. For this purpose we presented our project after a brief introduction of Synthetic Biology given by Prof. Alfred Pühler, one of the German pioneers of genetics. After the talks there was an open discussion hosted by the chief of editorial of the local radio broadcast station "radio bielefeld". The event took place in an atmospheric café in the center of Bielefeld.

The audience

Additionally to the talks, we arranged an info point with laboratory stuff like pipettes, tipes, gloves and shaking flaks. We presented a poster about our project, in order to adress more information to the auditorium. People should get an insight into our work and the practical lab work behind it. We observed that most of the people preferably asked questions in a personal discussion with the iGEM team members at the info point. We tried to feed information and positive examples of Synthetic Biology to the people, in order to rearrange their image of Synthetic Biology and genetics. This is quite important, because:

Quote of Michael Spector (iGEM security page)

"It is a debate about words, about metaphors - it is ideology, it is not science... It is law, it is morality, it is patent stuff. Science in not a company. It is not a country. It is not even an idea. It is a process; some times it works and some times it does not. The idea we should not allow science to do it's job, because we are afraid, is really deadening and it is preventing millions of people from prospering."

Michael Spector describes the impressions people often convey in the context of genetics and biology. Moreover he mentioned a very important attribute of science. Science is not political! Unfortunately science gets political involved in the moment, it discovers improvements of everyday life or solves problems of mankind. Therefore the political aspect has to be discussed. Not surprising, frequently asked questions out of the auditorium concerned all kind of biological, political and safety topics. It reflected that people still are afraid of hidden risks, especially in genetics:

  • Can I control everything I am able to do in the lab?
  • Is it possible for the bacteria to get out of the lab?
  • What is the differnce between Synthetic Biology and genetics?
  • How do I work on a molecular level? What kind of tools are used for cutting and pasting DNA?
  • Do I really need a test on spiciness?
  • Can science be more than just an interim solution? Can we rule out the origin of most problems through scientific improvement? Do starving people in foreign countries really get the improvements of green biotechnology or is there only a company profit?

People recognized that we are aware of possible safety and ethical issues. We pointed out that we modified an organism already categorized as security stage 1. So we are aware of the hazard potential of final molecular products. After some detailled description people understood that we did not build a risky bacteria by choice. Further they noted that building DNA devices out of BioBricks is a lot of experimental work. Some people tried to lead the conversation on political topics. The connection between the potential of genetics and Synthethic Biology and politics is quite obvious. The research might invent something that targets on help for people all around the world. Therefore it has to be discussed in a global context, how these inventions can be used by anybody. It was really exciting for us to get insight in the public's opinion on safety, ethics and biological issues. We discussed a long time after the talks with different persons of different backgrounds.

Prof. Alfred Pühler

weblinks und References:

Science café advertisment

Advertisment on Bio OWL (14.10.2010)

iGEM Security

Wikipedia Prof. Alfred Pühler (German article)


We killed two birds with one stone by feeding the students of the Bielefeld university with waffles and knowledge. For this porpuse we build up an infopoint with a poster and sold waffles. A lot of students took time to study our project, eat a waffle and ask questions concerning the iGEM competition and our project. It was a lot of fun for us and more important it was quite delicious.

Feeding Bielefeld
Timo is discussing our project
Simon convincing students about our projects with the help of our poster