Team:Freiburg/Human Practices

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Human practice
Communication is an essential part of human interaction and civilization in general. Every scientist has the duty to teach, communicate with and support the public, in order to give everyone the chance to learn about new and old scientific breakthroughs. Without communication the world wouldn’t be the place it is today.

The invention of the internet has made it a lot easier to stay in contact with one another, but it is also a great source of misunderstandings and misleading or simply false information. This is why it is crucial to publish scientific work and make it accessible to the public in an understandable way.

But what can we, a small team of students, do? What is achievable? Who can we reach and how can we learn from the people around us?

Thinking of a way on how to reach as many people as possible, we came up with the idea to have an interview on our university’s radio station.

Here, we‘ve talked about iGEM, synthetic biology in general, our team and of course our project. Our goal was to educate fellow university students, who have never heard of iGEM or even synthetic biology, what this competition stands for and what we achieved during the course of the last months.

We believe that learning and communication has to be done by both sides. So how could we get in touch with people, who are not involved in our project and benefit from their feedback? What we came up with was a survey. This way we would be able to receive information from a broader audience.

We’ve started by evaluating the basic knowledge about synthetic biology in general, the people’s opinion on consumption of bacteria and bacterial spores. We launched a survey that reached out for people of all ages and different educational background.

Since the first survey was focusing on synthetic biology and our project in general, we also wanted to get in contact with people suffering from ulcerative colitis. Given that, those are the people that we affect with our approach. Their opinion was extremely important to us and we therefore decided to dedicate them an extra survey.
However, publishing surveys that may include sensitive medical and personal data, requires caution. To formulate the questions for our survey we went to get help from a variety of experts from different scientific backgrounds. We’ve held an interview with a team of pharmacists and asked them for their opinion and some input.
Based on these information, we conducted a second survey, targeting ulcerative colitis patients directly. We shared this survey on various facebook pages of organisations which are helping patients to cope with their sickness.
At this point, we would like to thank everyone who helped us spread our survey, and in doing so, enabling us to improve our project in ways we couldn’t have done without them.
The aim of our survey was to receive information about the experiences patients actually had, what their age of diagnosis was, how long it took until they were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, what their first symptoms were and whether they had any side effects resulting from their therapy. Additionally, we presented our idea of targeted drug delivery using bacterial spores to get feedback on how applicable the people ,suffering from ulcerative colitis, actually think it is. To see what insights we gained from the survey and how we integrated it into our project, check out our integrated human practice page.

When it comes to a project like ours, communication is needed with people from all backgrounds. Questions kept floating around in our heads, wishing to be answered. Since we were able to receive feedback from the public and patients one part was still missing- the medical experts. What do experts actually think of our idea? Do they think it’s applicable? Or even realistic? What are their concerns regarding the use of bacterial spores?
Do they have any experience with negative side effects of the current medication of ulcerative colitis? To find answers our third survey was designed especially for gastroenterologists, who are treating patients with ulcerative colitis.
Each survey helped us to understand different point of views regarding our project. This made us question our concept and brought up new ideas to improve our project.
After we established a clear structure for our project, based on the information gathered from all three of our surveys, we felt confident enough to share our enhanced concept.

Luckily we were able to publish a blog entry via the BIOSS Centre For Biological Signalling Studies on SciLogs Spektrum page. This was our first scientific draft of our project and the feedback differs from previous result, since now we gave others an insight in our final medical approach and thoughts.
Another great opportunity of sharing and collecting experience was the iGEM meetup in Marburg, Germany. We reached a whole new level of communication since we were able to exchange information directly with other teams and present our project in front of this motivated audience. All the positive feedback and tips of the iGEMers really boosted our motivation Gladly we were able to exchange informations and developed bonds with other teams. In this way, ideas for new collaborations formed and a resulted in our Bacillus subtilis manual.
In the end we wanna thank everyone for participating in our surveys, giving us the opportunities to gain more knowledge, improving our project in different ways and raising awareness for the field of synthetic biology and our project of targeted drug delivery. Finally we can say that for progress, indeed, communication is needed.

Posted by: iGEM Freiburg

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