Team:Macquarie Australia/Survey


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As part of the workshop held with group of high school students, the present survey was completed in order to gauge the general perception towards synthetic biology, with particular emphasis on high school students taking biology as a subject. It was administrated before and after a seminar on Synthetic Biology and was designed to answer the following question: how does ones level of education regarding synthetic biology affect their perception of the ethical and safety issues that surround the technology?

This question was asked before and after our seminar was present and resulted in some very interesting responses, but most importantly (as we had hoped) every one answered this question with a yes after the workshop.

Prior to the discussion the responses to this question were quiet equally distributed, with problems with misuse, ethical concerns and unpredictable behaviour taking precedent. This may be due to the fact the majority of the students did not quiet understand what synthetic biology involved. However after the seminar when the question was asked again it seemed that the unpredictable nature of synthetic biology technology was the biggest concern.

This was an interesting question, even though the majority of students did not know what synthetic biology was they still believed it should be regulated. However most importantly when this question was asked again after they seminar was given and they understood what synthetic biology involved it was agreed unamiously that the technology should be regulated by the government.

The general consensus for the question did not change regardless of whether the students understood what synthetic biology involved or not, it looks like bacteria will be left to the mercy of evil scientists for the foreseeable future.

This was on of our favourite questions, as it really challenged the class especially as the beginning of the seminar showed the results from a similar question in a nation wide survey taken in 2010. The nation wide survey showed that 50% of adults believed that normal tomatoes did not have genes while genetically modified tomatoes did have genes. The class dissolved into nervous laughter as most of them also thought along similar lines but once it had been pointed out to them they realised how ridiculous it sounded. However this is the real challenge that synthetic biology researchers and the iGEM competitors face, combating misconceptions about the synthetic biology due to lack of education and understanding. However all the Macquarie students who help run this seminar were incredibly pleased to find that by the end of the workshop the school students seemed to have gained an understanding of what synthetic biology involved and were able to see the wider applications and future possibilities that could be achieved through this kind of research.