CRISPR Goes to Washington: Democracy Ensues? Results From Pilot Public Engagement Project

This blog post was originally published for Bionews on November 26th, and co-authored with Dr Lara Marks. The original blog post can be read here

Public engagement is an essential ingredient in building public trust and confidence, when it comes to decisions about the use of science and technology. It is important to recognise that the ways in which scientists and policymakers depict the potential benefits and hazards of a new technology can influence public debate and its parameters. That is why it is important to engage the public in the debate about genome editing as early as possible, and in a way that is as open as possible, to make sure that all possible voices are included.

We, a historian of medicine and a bioethicist, are currently attempting to do this through an online pilot survey. The survey is designed to gauge what members of the public think about the new genome editing technology and how it should be applied.

More than 230 people have already responded – most of them from the UK and the USA, but also from China and elsewhere – and the survey is still ongoing. Respondents have identified themselves as academics, research and medical professionals, laypeople, patients, students, policy professionals and industry experts. Their feedback highlights many of the issues that matter to the public, which should be considered at the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington DC next week (December 1st to 3rd).

The importance of such an exercise is highlighted by one participant, a UK student, who argues: ‘Policy should come from the public, not enforced on the public. [It is] Extremely important to have open and anonymous forums like this. The hyperbolic assertions of the media in these matters are —> Read More