In terms of education and communication, we have not only accomplished a wealth of activities, including questionnaires, CCiC and consulting seniors from academic and industry, but we have also actively promoted an international consensus, the Tianjin Biosecurity Guidelines for Codes of Conduct for Scientists, in diverse online and on-site activities. We have made remarkable achievements to let more students, researchers, and the general public be aware of the responsibility of the science community as a whole for biosafety. In the context of the COVID epidemic and the suspicion of biotechnology, it is vital that more people see the international science community is contributing more to biosafety, which will create a suitable environment for the development and application of synthetic biology.
Communication through survey
At the beginning of the project, we designed a survey to learn about the public's perceptions about biosafety and their rate of acceptance about biosynthetic products. The results of the survey showed how most of the participants' knowledge about biosafety was limited. However, the great majority of them showed a positive attitude towards learning about biosafety and synbio products. Among them, around 80% of the public chose short videos or online articles as their ideal form of learning about biosafety, while at the same time around 30% of them chose community or school lectures and related activities as their preferred form of learning. We also asked the participants of the survey whether they knew about the efforts our country put into maintaining biosafety and the products that were directed towards biosafety, and frankly, most of them did not. Based on these survey results, we put into practice a series of activities that help the popularation of science and biosafety.
Left: Have you ever heard of the relevant actions taken by the country to safeguard biosecurity?
Middle: Would you like to know about products directed towards maintaining biosafety?
Right: Would you like to increase your knowledge of biosafety?
We questioned the participants on how much they reject genetic editing and synbio. Most participants did not reject the idea of synbio, but most of those who did were mainly concerned about the negative effects synbio may bring to human health and the environment.
Left: How much do you reject synbio and gene editing? Right: If you do reject synbio, why?
If synbio products can prevent microbial escape to the greatest extent, 77.09% of the participants said that it will help relieve them of their concerns and rejection of synbio products. This is why we wanted to develop a related system.
Will your concerns be relieved if the escape of microorganisms can be prevented?
Education on Biosafety
Since January 2021, the University of Tianjin and John Hopkins University have been connecting closely with the US State Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, to change the Tianjin Guidelines into a series of principles and rules of conduct, hence the Tianjin Biosecurity Guidelines for Codes of Conduct for Scientists (The Tianjin Guidelines). The Tianjin Guidelines provided an ideal mode of conduct for other countries and institutions, including 10 principles and rules of conduct which proposed raising professionals' awareness of biosafety by promoting research responsibilities, spreading results, popularizing science, communicating internationally and more. We thought that spreading information about the contents of the Tianjin Guidelines and its importance in our activities would be very meaningful. We have made remarkable achievements through online and on-site activities to let more students, researchers, and the general public be aware of the responsibility of the science community as a whole for biosafety. In the context of the COVID epidemic and the suspicion of biotechnology, it is vital that more people see the international science community is contributing more to biosafety, which will create a suitable environment for the development and application of synthetic biology. At the same time, we also wrote a proposal about regulations on biosafety. See more in
We know that spreading knowledge about biosafety to the public is especially important, especially to students who are interested in biology. To students who may consider choosing synthetic biology as their major, biosafety is something they should keep in mind before they start taking any technical courses. We held student lectures, student courses and flash courses in Beijing No.4 High School, Beijing National Day School and Beijing Experimental Middle School, to teach students about the basics of synbio and the contents of the Tianjin Guidelines, and also to tell them about our project. We also made pamphlets that contained the contents of our lectures, for the audience to get an idea about what we hoped to convey. After the lectures, we also asked the audience for their thoughts in the form of distributed surveys.
Aside from the activities we held in local schools, our team also conducted a series of online activities to promote biosafety.
We posted some videos on the popular Chinese video website Bilibili. Excitingly, we received quite a lot of views. At the same time, we also created a WeChat Official Account, and posted a series of articles about synbio and biosafety.
Communication through CCiC
During CCiC 2021, we shared our project and synbio risk regulations with technological innovations with other teams in iGEM. At the same time, CCiC provided us with a valuable chance to communicate with professionals in a variety of fields. We met Professor Bao from Tsinghua University, who provided us with a lot of support on our proposal on regulations about biosafety.
Communication through Feedback
We created a survey to evaluate the results of our efforts. Our results show that after attending our lectures and activities, over 90% of the audience responded that they were more willing to use and accept synbio products after learning about the efforts our country and the scientific world have put into ensuring biosafety. The great majority of participants showed approval in our project.
Are you more willing to accept and use synthetic biology products after learning about the national and scientific community's efforts to safeguard biosecurity?
After the introduction, do you think the Hidro project that NDNF is currently working on will be helpful for synthetic biology products to come out of the lab and be useful in practice?