Human Practice

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Human Practice Project:
Book Review

"Hey, Panda in the Ueno Zoo dead of the radiation from Fukushima!"


This might sound like a joke, but this statement was found on the internet after the Great East Japan Earthquake on 3.11 in Japan. In addition, there are more serious cases like financial damage that farm houses in Fukushima have suffered, caused by misleading or incorrect knowledge. In an age of information abundance, what we need to protect our daily life is science literacy, which helps us to view literature critically and to make a judgment on the reliability of a source, as well as to make good use of science technology.

So, what have we done?

We decided to start a book review in Japanese to recommend books on natural science, especially biology. We have been using twitter to introduce a book per a day since 7th July 2012. The books being introduced are chosen by team UT-Tokyo’s members, according to the theme: books you think are helpful for understanding science and are easy enough for people who are not specialized in natural science. Until today, we have introduced nearly 70 books. The following address is a link to the twitter account↓

We have also made a booklet summarizing the books we have introduced. The Japanese version contains all the books we have introduced and an English version has the books that were originally written in English.


Dr. Ueda
One of the aims of Human Practice activity is to broaden the idea of synthetic biology among the general public, especially to those that are not specialized in natural science or biology.

We asked Doctor Ueda, one of our supervisors, for advice about what kind of activity is effective for broadening synthetic biology. The advice he gave us is that it is difficult indeed to state publicly with confidence about the safety of synthetic biology, since it is a newly developed academic field. In addition, if the information comes from a synthetic biologist, it is likely to be biased. Throughout our discussions, we reached a conclusion that the only way to lead the public to understand synthetic biology better is to help people to learn by themselves and reach reliable information sources. So, we decided to set the target of team UT-Tokyo’s Human Practice activity as follows: Offering better opportunities and accessibility for the general public to make it easier for them to learn about natural science (including synthetic biology) aggressively and make contributions to the improvement of science literacy.

What is Science Literacy?

According to the OECD, "the capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence-based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity." Since there is so much new information and technology flooding the internet and society, it often requires great effort to find out what is really true or false, or even distorted intentionally. This is the reason why science literacy is said to be necessary more than ever.

We strongly suggest reading more books.


We’ve focused on one of the oldest media, the book. Compared to media invented in the later ages, there are still some advantages that only books can give us. These include reliability of information and systematized information. These are factors helpful for us to establish our judging guidelines.

Reliability of Information

Reliability of what is printed on books directly represents the credibility of the publisher. Especially publishers like science society or university press have strict checks on every page they release. This characteristic is a disadvantage looking from the aspect of rapidity and flexibility, but guarantees the sources on books are reliable.

Information Systematized

Systematized information enables us to understand deeper and have a clearer image of the topic at hand than only browsing over the surface of information scattered over the internet. Reading books help us establishing our own judging standard because when information is systematized, it can help us to arrange our own ideas. However, organizing information into paragraphs requires great effort. Thus, information that is systematized tends not to be exposed on the Internet because it is published and therefore protected by the copyright Act. This is the reason why searching for information that is systematized well on the internet requires much effort.

According to the advantages above, we believe that suggesting people to read more books to feel natural science more familiar is one of the best ways to help us develop scientific literacy.

What can we expect throughout these activities?

We can expect two uses of the book review mentioned above

As promotion—we can expect people who have looked through our review to be interested in any one of them and to actually read it.

As a database-what we have introduced is open on the internet, so we expect people to find it useful when they need some information or suggestions about what to read.

As a booklet-also in an analogous form, we can distribute what we have edited to school libraries(or simply school ) to give students suggestions on what to read.

Relation between synthetic-biology and science literacy

We believe these activities also make better the understanding of synthetic biology to the public. As Dr. Ueda has said, synthetic-biology is a new field of science, which may cause overestimating its capabilities or baseless fear . This is why we need science literacy before spreading the idea of synthetic biology.