Team:Guelph/Integrated Human Practices

Integrated Human practices Overview

To incorporate the feedback from our consultations and stakeholders, we had to see what best benefited our project. The Integrated Human Practices portion of this competition was one with a few obstacles, but nevertheless, it was very rewarding to work on. Our reflection impacted our project purpose greatly and we had many drafts to work through before we settled on what we wanted to do for the Integrated Human Practices part of this project.

After receiving a lot of feedback related to the feasibility of providing Arabidopsis to businesses, we realized that we must divert from contacting businesses, and we should look into seed manufacturers. This changed our action plan as we were contacting farmers and businesses about their thoughts on these genetically modified Arabidopsis seeds since we thought they were direct stakeholders. However, after talking with a farmer and professor on their thoughts on the financial aspect of our project, they both said that seed manufacturers would be more interested than any commercial business. 

The farmer and farmer’s association also recommended that we look into the policies of import/export for genetically modified crops. This helped us better understand the logistics and longevity of our project. In the future, we have decided to start off the Human Practices search for stakeholders by first looking at all the policies for our project in order to get a deeper understanding of what our aim is.

Another major project feedback point was on the accessibility to our project and how there is a lack of engagement with the wider population on our project. To combat this, we had originally thought of making a Youtube video and distributing it to numerous student groups at the University of Guelph to increase the engagement and accessibility to our project. But, another group in iGEM Guelph had made a promotional video for our project so we decided to maximize the usage of our resources and we distributed this video to many groups. 

We also had a member in iGEM Guelph translate the transcript for this promotional video in French to increase accessibility, and we included subtitles in the video. By having a french transcript and subtitles for the video, we were able to cater to individuals with French as their first language and those who are hard of hearing. We also had a voiceover for those individuals that had a visual impairment. By adding these small changes to our project accessibility, we were able to increase engagement for our project as now our project was ready for a greater audience.  

Next, we had to decide who we would distribute this project to. We wanted to contact individuals who represented large student groups and could get the project out there in the fastest way possible. We contacted numerous:

  • Program-specific Instagrams/facebooks

  • Newsletters to different majors and clubs 

  • University of Guelph personnel who could distribute this project to the hundreds and thousands of students they represent

With every request to distribute our project, we included a short caption about our project, the french transcript, and the promotional video with voiceover as well as subtitles.  

Building on the need for more public awareness and education isha

One of the main concerns that was brought to our team's attention was the need for education on synthetic biology. Dr. Nasielski informed us that given the new technologies within synthetic biology and the diverse range of applications, many students and Guelph residents may not be aware of what our team is doing. 

Informing the public and generating awareness will strongly benefit our team and create interest in our project. The support towards our project will especially be needed if funding needs increased or if additional side projects were to be added. In addition, by educating more Guelph students and professors about our project we will be able to gain feedback and improve our project further. There were many ways to integrate this feedback and the approach we took was to increase the awareness within our campus via social media and other forms of  popular communication.  

Initially, we created a blurb to promote our project and distribute this information to students. It was suggested by Dr. Nasielski that we increase accessibility by using vials aids. As a result, we included our project’s promotional video. To further increase accessibility we included closed captions for our video. In addition to English, our team used resources to create a French transcript and an Arabic transcript. These were included when distributing the information. 

Next we looked into communication methods to reach the maximum number of students/professors. Since we wanted to reach a very large population we thought social media would be most effective. In addition, newsletters and emails to certain listservs would communicate our message to a large population. 

Upon selecting our method of communication, we reached out to the selected clubs and professors via email. We asked them to share our video via their social media and direct any feedback to us. Below is a list of all the outreach and methods of communication. 

  1. Scientista 

    1. Scientista Guelph Chapter is an STEM organization that operates on campus and advocates for women's representation within STEM fields on campus. While their main mission is regarding women representation, they are still advocating for STEM and research to  a wide range of Guelph students. With over 80 members in their organization, we realized any promotion with this organization would benefit us. 

    2. We asked them to share our promotional video via their social media sites and within their club. Through this outreach our promotion video gained a lot of views and reshares. 

  2. Hayley McNamara

    1. Hayley is the Residence Life Coordinator at the University of Guelph who oversees Gryphlife, a communication portal for all first year students who live in residence. This consists of 500 students. 

    2. We asked her to promote our promotional video on Gryphlife which allowed us to reach many first-years, a major population on Guelph Campus. 

  3. Kimberly Best

    1. Kimberly is the social coordinator for all students completing a Bachelor’s of Science. This is a large population that would directly be interested in our work on synthetic biology. 

    2. We asked her to promote our video on the listserv and thus reached out to over 2000 students. 

Integrating financial  ideas into our project design 

After speaking with Dr. Nasielski and Mr. Bianchi, we quickly realized that using the Arabidopsis plant in our project would make it near impossible to sell our gene-edited plants commercially. Arabidopsis is common and not bought regularly at the grocery store. This made us change our outlook on the financial purpose of this project. We decided to look more into seed manufacturers who would be interested in gene-edited arabidopsis seeds. By doing this, we were maximizing our advantages as instead of contacting more businesses for their input as stakeholders, we realized one of our biggest stakeholders was seed manufacturers. They would be affected greatly by these seeds that can withstand harsher climates. With the help of the professor and farmer, we realized how our goal with this project was not realistic and by looking into different stakeholders, we better maximized the economics of this project.

How did your Human Practices work inform and shape your project at different stages? 

Human practise started reaching out to stakeholders throughout the summer. This was after the initial design for the project was chosen, so there was limited feedback to be integrated into the project design. 

Withthis said, Human Practise first reached out to Dr. Nasielski who changed our business plan and outreach methods. With his advice on looking into seed companies our team changed the priority for stakeholders. Instead of looking into more professors, more seed companies were sought out. Additionally, his feedback regarding increase in accessibility pushed us to outreach with visual aids. More information about this was mentioned above. 

How did you decide which needs or values to prioritize in your project’s design?

In order to incorporate the most effective feedback, we had to evaluate numerous factors. To enhance engagement and accessibility for our project, we had to consider how we would go about this and what would be the easiest way to reach the masses. For increasing engagement of our work, we had many options including Instagram, newsletter, Facebook, Gryphons Nest, and class talks. Since class talks were difficult to coordinate with the pandemic and with our team being in the same program, the audience would have been very niche. Due to the limitations of class talks, we decided to look more into engagement through newsletters and Instagram which were faster and engaged numerous individuals in different programs. Also, to increase accessibility, we created a transcript of our project video in french. This helped to ensure that we were reaching people with a French background. Overall, we tried to prioritize the most efficient and informative way to increase engagement and accessibility for our project.

What compromises, if any, did you choose to make and why? 

A major compromise we had to make was choosing areas of focus. Our Integrated human practise team is very small with only two members, so there were only so many days that could be committed into integration projects. As a result we had to be selective with the number of integrations/outreach we could conduct. 

An area where this had an impact was the promotion and accessibility outreaches. In person promotions are known to be most effective at education, while social media is more passive education. So a direct approach for education would have gained more interest in our project. However, that would require a lot of members to facilitate. Thus, we compromised with using social media as the primary method to educate.

Additionally, as a result of covid regulations, the direct approach was not ideal for student interactions and further constricted IHP. 

What would we do in the future to better Hp and IHP

In the future, we would start our first meeting with a rough action plan for the year. By deciding which month we would contact stakeholders, conduct interviews, brainstorm ideas to integrate their feedback and go about actually integrating it. This would help everyone stay on the same page and act cohesively. Also, it would help to start early so the project design avoids drastic changes halfway through the year.  

How did your team “close the loop” between what was designed and what was desired? 

We closed the loop between what was designed and what was desired by making sure we were completing our major goals. Our primary focus, informing students, was maximized. Students did learn more about synthetic biology application and environmental aspects to our project. Overall our project goals were accomplished and presented to students in an effective manner thus closing the loop.