Integrated human practices
ARIA: fighting a real world problem
The problem we decided to try to solve did not seem so straightforward at first. Many variables had to be taken into account, and the presence of different points of view proved to be key in order to develop an effective solution. Hence, multidisciplinarity played a huge role in this project. As antibiotic resistance is a complex disease by definition, it can not be solved with traditional methods, so interdisciplinarity in the technologies used, and as a consequence, in the stakeholders and experts advice is key. as it can affect anyone from any country, we had to reach the whole population.
Considering this, contacting a wide variety of experts from a broad spectrum of fields proved to be a major pillar in the correct development of our project. Furthermore, we considered it of great importance to try and raise awareness among the younger communities about this problem, which may go unnoticed nowadays but will acquire importance in the near future. Of course, the rest of the population was also targeted, we connected our project and society through several activities and media. It is important to remark that all the events and social interactions cautiously followed safety and security measures, putting special emphasis on the COVID-19 protocols.
All in all, this wide range of actions allowed us to gain an invaluable insight into how this problem is viewed from many different perspectives, which helped in guiding the development of the entire system as well as connecting it to the world. For us, a bidirectional relation between the world and our project ARIA is indispensable.
As a summary, in Figure 1 we show a general scheme of ARIA integrated human practices. Then, each point is explained in detail in the accordions below, including redirection to specific wiki pages.
The team, along with the instructors, was involved in multiple sessions where we would discuss a wide variety of problems (global or local). This is how we pursued to identify a world need that filled our desires and an innovative solution to it. In order to create and analyze robust proposals, the help of our advisors was of great utility.
Some of the proposed thematics ranged from trying to create an alternative for B12 diagnostics, passing to gene editing MHC gene cassette in tissue or organ transplant, to building a renewable energy system.
Final project decision
In a meeting with the team, the instructors and the PIs, we prepared a list of pros and cons of all the ideas that lasted to the final decision. After considering the strengths, feasibility and limitations of each idea, we conducted a vote for each project. The result was almost unanimous for the Antibiotic Resistance Inference Array. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in our society: a situation that serves as a rough representation is the case of a Nevada woman who died because of a superbug resistant to every antibiotic available in the US in 2017 . This case impacted us and made us more conscious of the problem, that is why we expose it at the beginning of our presentation video, so that the rest of the population is also aware of the importance and urgency of antibiotic resistance silent pandemic. More info about the AR problem in the Description page.
Antibiotic resistance webinar by J&J
As part of our formation regarding this topic, we felt like obtaining different points of view was key to understanding the complexity of this problem. In order to enrich our knowledge, we assisted a webinar given by the multinational association J&J, more concretely by their antimicrobial resistance R&D program. The range of experts who gave their insight act as our first stakeholders. More info on the Education page.
General population survey
In order to get a more deep insight into how the general population views the antibiotic resistance problem, we conducted a general survey to not only understand the widespread knowledge regarding this topic, but to also raise awareness of how serious this matter really is. More info on the Education page.
Before starting ARIA, we believed it was necessary to establish some values that would guide us throughout the development of the project. Our highest priority was to address the most fundamental issue: trying to win the battle against antibiotic resistance.
i) Our values
To achieve this objective, we established different points that we considered important:
- Accessibility: It consists of the facilitation of the means so that everyone can access all the necessary information and resources.
- Open science: It is important to maintain a working environment where information can circulate freely to promote the development of science, so that more projects aimed at improving the welfare of the population can emerge.
- Equality: We felt it was important that everyone should have access to our product regardless of their economic status.
- Sustainability: The purpose of our product is that it should be easy and inexpensive to use, thus helping to improve global change.
- Partnership and multidisciplinarity: Our team itself is made up of members from different backgrounds. In addition, we have made an effort to collaborate and reach out to other scientists and groups of people who could provide us with different points of view.
- Safety: It is of vital importance to maintain good safety for our group, collaborators and the end-user who will use the product.
ii) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
We realized then that since ARIA is a project that is aimed at meeting the needs of society, it should also try to meet the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations .
However, time and resources were limited, leading us to quickly prioritize which of the SDG objectives we could meet first with our proof of concept (first addressed) and which ones we would be able to accomplish after we have finished developing our project (secondly addressed).
First SDG addressed
Goal 3: Good-Health and Well-Being. In the wake of the pandemic, an increasingly important problem such as antibiotic resistance has progressively taken a back seat. With our project, we intend to address the problem by improving and streamlining the diagnosis of antimicrobial resistance. However, we are also committed to an open science system to make the data accessible. Finally, as it is a user-friendly system, specialized healthcare workers would be less overburdened after the current COVID-19 situation.
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals. During the project, we have had different areas of support. These include academic reviews by experts in the field or a crowdfunding campaign to finance our project and gain sponsors. Finally, we have collaborated and had the help of other iGEM teams to move our project forward (for more information see Collaborations, Education and Communication pages).
Second SDG addressed
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. Our proposal to create a simple and inexpensive material product could ensure that those most affected by crises and the recent pandemic could have access to this diagnostic method. In addition, it could be performed anywhere without the need for a sophisticated detection system or equipment.
Goal 12: Responsible Consumptions and Production. This objective focuses on waste minimization and promotes increased recycling and the creation of sustainable production methods. The physical part of ARIA is based on paper, which is an inexpensive medium to produce and easily recyclable. This innovation would also replace many of the plastic media used in the clinic (for more information see Design page).
Defining objectives and meeting values
Our conversations with scientists and stakeholders solidified the importance of one of the critical factors in the antimicrobial resistance detection: time. For that, we tried to design a product that contemplates the possibility of saving as much time as possible during the entire process of detection. This way, time for diagnosis is saved up, which may be of key importance in order to successfully save lives.
Additionally, an easy-to-use product designed with simple and sustainable materials was of great importance to our stakeholders, because it promotes accessibility for everyone and makes it feasible to use everywhere.
All in all, in this way we plan to implement our main value proposals in order to improve the global world situation related to antibiotic resistance. More info on the Design and End-to-end pipeline pages.
Different safety measures were adopted in all project aspects, of course without forgetting to apply them in our human practices activities. First, due to the current COVID-19 situation, following protocols such as social distancing, face masks, and hand washing was of absolute importance. Regarding the external activities for human practices, we avoided meeting up personally with adults and, especially, elders. Hence, our main focus towards divulging science was through schools and high schools. Furthermore, most of our meetings with experts were conducted online, to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. More info on the Safety page.
Since ARIA is divided into three fundamental blocks, we needed instructors and collaborators from different backgrounds who would be able to give us advice and support in order to shape the direction and workflow of our project.
Advice integration: instructors
Our instructors were a fundamental pillar of support for our team, as they were the ones who were constantly guiding and advising us. Without their help, it would have been very difficult for us to reach the level of development of our project. However, they let us develop the whole project on our own and of course make all the decisions. Moreover, they acted as our constant stakeholders with which we closed the loop lots of times, as most of them work with bacteria and are experts on this topic. More info on the Education page.
Advice integration: collaborators
In those subjects in which the instructors were not experts, it was then when we contacted collaborators, to act as stakeholders in other spheres. They came from very different areas, which allowed us to apply their advice to improve the development of the project in different directions. More info on the Education page.
Connecting science and society
We believe raising awareness among younger communities is a very important factor that has to be taken into account. That is the main reason why we performed some activities in schools and high schools in order to explain the problem to youngsters who, otherwise, would be unaware of it. More info on the Education page.
Connecting our project and society
As we know, divulgation among scientists is one of the pillars of the scientific success that the community is achieving. That is the main reason why we deemed it necessary to participate in scientific congresses like the one organized together with the Spanish Federation of Pharmacy Students (FEEF) and the Association of Students of Health Sciences (AECS). Not only that, but our desire to organize an event by ourselves was achieved, as we organized a hybrid conference at UPF, to which both in person attendances and online ones (including other iGEM teams) participated. These events were of great help to understand more deeply the problem we were solving, but also the presence of new points of view helped us upgrade some aspects of our project, mostly in the Q&A interactive parts. More info on the Education page.
Connecting our project and the world
In order to expand our project, we aimed to use communication events and media. We appeared in several newspapers, and worked hard on social media networking. Moreover, we participated in the PRBB open day, which is an event where all the labs in the PRBB explain their research to the world, and ARIA had a space there. For the future, we have arranged more dissemination events with external organizations interested in our project. More info on the Communication page.
Proposed implementation feedback: medical experts
Our project is designed with the aim of helping the healthcare system in antibiotic resistance detection and characterization. For our system to meet all the needs of clinicians, we have met with experts to evaluate it and ensure that our final development meets all their requirements. These medical experts were our clinician stakeholders, we had the first meetings at the end of our project development, and will continue working near them due to their high interest in the project and our need to have this medical support. More info on the Education page.
Peer review evaluation
Once the project approach was defined, we considered constructive the fact of consulting specific professional academic researchers non-directly related to our field of study, so that we obtained a multidisciplinary vision. In this way, we had stakeholders non-directly related to the project topic that gave us a general feedback overview. More info on the Education page.
We carried out other types of activities that were not directly related to the antibiotic resistance action plan, but that was key to achieving the objectives of our project:
One focal point of our project is the design of our Wiki. Since it is not only time-consuming but also very complex and novel for all of us, we assisted a workshop with previous and current iGEMers to get guidelines in order to successfully develop it. Moreover, to facilitate future iGEMs wiki drama, we prepared a wiki tips compiling for them. More info on the Education and Contribution pages.
Entrepreneurship mentorship and funding
As part of the development of a project from scratch, we had to gain knowledge regarding the organization of a project of such dimensions, and also understand how to successfully develop. For that, additional formation was needed. Furthermore, while understanding the basis of a project, funding proved to be a key point of it. Hence, looking for sponsors was another main area of work for our team, along with the setup of a crowdfunding campaign on our auxiliary website. Finally, as future insight, we prepared an extended entrepreneurship section for which we consulted with lots of experts in repetitive meetings, which were our mentor and entrepreneurship stakeholders. More info on Entrepreneurship and Communication pages.
Audiovisual Content: graphic design & video making of
Since multidisciplinarity was a key component of our team, we took advantage of it in every field possible. Due to the natural artistic talent of some of our members, we were able to design audiovisual content by ourselves in order to present and promote our project. The use of our audiovisual content helps us to reach society and catch their attention since, as we know, a picture speaks a thousand words. More info on the Communication page.
Inclusivity and contribution
As we live in a plural and diverse society, we decided to make our project as inclusive as possible. That was done by setting up our auxiliary website in different languages (Catalan, Spanish, English). Not only that, but we also adapted our wiki for blind people by using images descriptions. Lastly, we promoted open science in all project spheres. More info on Inclusivity and Contribution pages.