Our team focused a great part of its work on education and public engagement, in an attempt to reach the widest audience as possible. At the earliest stages of our project, we targeted a younger generation of the population, namely of middle school and high school students: we went to present our project in front of their classes, and we introduced them to synthetic biology and the Mos(kit)o project in a fun and didactic way, each time by introducing the topic with a game, and then followed by a debate. From their enthusiastic feedback, we concluded that we were successful at generating an interest on their part for our project, and for synthetic biology. The approach through a game to learn about mosquitoes, methods to prevent their spread by minimizing stagnant water in the yards, drawing a trap, counting "colored pins" as proxies for mosquitoes, and a quizz, was useful to gain their attention by active participation. Then, we tried to draw the attention of a broader public, by presenting our project at various conferences and scientific events such as the Zika summit 2016 held at Institut Pasteur and we usually received very positive feedback. We met professionals such as scientists, but not only, as there were also business, local directors of control boards, or even members of the W.H.O. Geneva (Florence Foulque). Finally, we tried to reach out to everyone who could one day benefit from our system, by conducting surveys, both online and on the streets, to gather the general public’s opinion on the Mos(kit)o system.
During the summer, we wanted to get the impression of the public towards our project and synthetic biology in general. We used online platforms to conduct two surveys : • One centered on our project:
The point of this poll was to evaluate the public’s acceptance of our project, both in Metropolitan (mainland) France and in Polynesia. In mainland France, the people responding to this poll were mainly with higher education in science: more than 75% had at least a degree in science. Two hundred and ninety persons completed it in France and fifty seven in Polynesia.
The survey shows that arboviral-borne diseases are a common concern for people: 60% of people surveyed know what an arbovirus is, 81.5% take into account the diseases present in a country when they travel. We also found that although 74% of those polled are aware of the resistance developed by mosquitoes against insecticides, 90% of them use pharmaceutical products to protect themselves. Concerning our project, 53.5% had the impression that the scientific community didn't have enough information on the geographic spraying of at-risk zones, and it goes up to 61.8% for people with a master's degree in science. Besides, 95.4% think that more precise information on the geographic spraying of at-risks zones would be useful. It was also found that 99.6% of people think that at-risk populations should be informed. When asked who should do it, whether local authorities should be in charge of that, the answer was yes in 90% of the cases, with a cooperation with the media in 60% of the cases. They considered that local authorities should also have input from the scientific community in 49% of the cases. In addition, checking dangerous or hard-to-reach areas with a drone seemed necessary for 81% of those surveyed. The survey shows great public acceptance from developed countries, mainly because the need for more information is present. What’s more interesting is that our scenario seems to match people’s expectations concerning who is in charge of the process and communication, meaning the local authorities.
The sample is composed of 57 people, almost all of whom (85%) have no scientific background. Yet, they were very enthusiastic about the project. The survey shows that most people don’t know what arboviral-borne diseases are (in those terms). But they are very much aware of these diseases in everyday life, as every time we explained to them what arboviral diseases are, they directly linked it to the diseases that affect their area. Furthermore, they know about the resistance against insecticides developed by mosquitoes and they are concerned about it. Indeed, as they told us, it is a real plague for them, and spreading campaigns of insecticides are highly destructives for the environment. As in mainland France, they use pharmaceutical products to protect themselves, but also mosquito net. Half of the sample thinks that the scientific community has enough information about infectious mosquitoes impacting endemic areas. But they all agree that our device, as well as a more precise map of infected areas, especially before epidemics, would be essential. 95% also find that the idea of a drone to reach hard to access areas is really good, because it will prevent many dangers for the local people who would deposit the trap. The majority thinks that scientists are the ones who should inform the population about a potential risk of epidemic, but they find the idea of giving this task to local authorities very innovative and pertinent. Furthermore, they were very enthusiastic about this idea, as it will place them in the center of the process. They are glad to be given a chance to take part in the environmental-friendly fight against mosquitoes. As in Metropolitan France, this survey shows great acceptance in tropical areas, especially because people feel the need to be informed before an epidemic occurs, so as to be well prepared. Surveying was also very interesting for us, since we had really great moments of sharing, as they had a different opinion from that in France, and 91% did not know what synthetic biology is.
Our first goal was to test out opinions and common preconceptions on synthetic biology, and what were the factors that influenced them, which is why we first asked questions about their opinions on synthetic biology, then questions about synthetic biology. To each person surveyed, we asked for their age, the size of their city’s population, their professional activity, and whether they had a science diploma, and if so, in which field. In total, we interviewed 353 people, mostly between 18 and 25 years old (60%) or 26 and 35 years old (29%), either living in big cities (51% live in a town of more than 300 000 inhabitants) or small ones (23.1% in a town of between 1 000 and 20 000 inhabitants). 53% are students, 60% have a science diploma, in biology for 25% of them. 78.7% don’t practice a religion. Considering our sample, we were not surprised that 36.8% know what synthetic biology is, and that the global opinion on synthetic biology is for a strong majority very positive or quite positive. Yet, when we consider only those who learned what synthetic biology is with the questionnaire, there are more negative answers. Opinion on synthetic biology of those who didn't know what it was before the questionnaire
Still, the approval rate depends a lot on the application field concerned: Global approval rate of the use of synthetic biology depending on the field of application.
We gave three concrete examples of applications of synthetic biology: the production of insulin, the degrading of oil and the creation of GMO plants. It came out that 85% of those surveyed consider very positive or quite positive the application of synthetic biology to produce insulin. To degrade oil in case of an oil slick, it is 84%. For creating genetically modified plants or animals, it dropped to 30%.
In addition we introduced our Mos(kit)o project to them, and 51.3% are very positive and 32.1% are quite positive about our device.It is clear that when it comes to medicine, energy and environment, people tend to be more in favor of the use of synthetic biology. But when it comes to fields related to their basic needs, such as cosmetics and food, they are extremely reluctant about it. Concerning the use of synthetic biology, 36.7% think that it is not regulated enough, 17.8% think thought that it is badly regulated. What’s more, 82.4% think that it should be a matter of public research, and only 33.2% are in favor of private research. However, this gap is less pronounced among the people studying or having studied synthetic biology, who have a higher probability of dealing with synthetic biology at work. Indeed, 55% are in favor of its use in public research, and 35% approve it in the private sector. Nevertheless, informing people about both positive applications and negative diversions had an impact on people’s opinion. Indeed, 24% of them changed positively their minds on synthetic biology positively,, and 16% changed it to neutrality. Percentage of people who changed their mind after taking the questionnaire