Team:Missouri Miners/PublicOpinion


The Effect of Education on the Public Opinion of Synthetic Biology

Two team leaders from the Missouri Miners team researched the effect of educational treatments on public opinion of synthetic biology. The team also wished to examine the difference in public opinion between religious and nonreligious groups. The following abstract and paper outline this research, which was supported by Missouri S&T's OURE Fellows program. The project was entered into the humanities division of Missouri S&T's Eighth Annual Undergraduate Research Conference and won first place.


The field of synthetic biology is rapidly growing. The applications have great potential, but they also present new risks and dangers. Future progress in this field substantially depends on public support; therefore, it is important to have quantitative measures of the public opinion of synthetic biology. Using statistical sampling in the form of surveys, we have collected data from an unprecedented religious standpoint. Qualitative data collected from group discussions was used to design the surveys. Findings show that subjects with a religious affiliation were more likely to disapprove of synthetic biology. Findings also reveal a significant difference between educational treatments. A “hands on” approach designed to simultaneously entertain and educate subjects was more effective at increasing positive perceptions of synthetic biology than a formal presentation. The data collected from this research provides significant insights into public opinion and the design of educational tools.

Click here for full text pdf of the research paper.