- Social Epidemiology
- Media Analysis
This year, we decided to overcome the issue of food and drug safety—“detecting metals and mycotoxins in Chinese medicine” as our project. We aimed at using what we learned in synthetic biology to solve this issue.
Inspired by the article “The role of social scientists in synthetic biology” written by Jane Calvert and Paul Martin, we believed that we should and we could use solid social studies to strengthen our project, to justify the signficance of our project, and to generate new and valid knowledge that can be used for future research.
Thus, we designed three social studies for our project.
1. Social epidemiology: to investigate the knowledge and use of Chinese medicine in Taiwan
2. Media analysis: to explore the context of gene technology and synthetic biology in Taiwan's media
3. Document analysis: to compare the difference of Food security policies between Taiwan and the other countries
Figure 1. Integration of Human Practice and Herb Taster Project
Social epidemiology of Chinese medicine
Abstract: Chinese medicine plays an important role in the Asian culture as food and medicine. In this study, we want to investigate the knowledge and use of Chinese medicine in Taiwan and the association with socio-demographic characteristics. We used three waves of National Health Interview Survey (year 2005, 2009, and 2013) to examine the knowledge and use of Chinese medicine in Taiwan. Our results showed that Chinese medicine is commonly used in Taiwan. Poor knowledge regarding regulations on Chinese medicine manufacturing and purchase is associated with lower education. Our study reveals that Taiwanese people are likely to be exposed to potential risk in taking Chinese medicine.
Social epidemiology applies the method of epidemiology to investigate the prevalence of a social issue and its association with potential determinants
1.Motivation: Western medicine has been dominating our society in treating diseases for decades. However, Chinese medicine has been playing an important role in Asian culture in food and medicine for long. We are not sure whether detecting in heavy metals and mycotoxin in Chinese medicine is still an important issues deserving attention if there are few people using it.
2. Objective: to investigate the knowledge and use of Chinese medicine in Taiwan
3. Research questions:
(1) Whether use of Chinese medicine is more prevalent among the elderly than younger population?
(2) Whether Taiwanese people’s knowledge on GMP and prescription of Chinese medicine is different across socio-demographic characteristics?
(3) Whether potential inappropriate use of Chinese medicine is related to socio-demographic characteristics?
(1) Design: pooled cross sectional study
(2) Data: 2005, 2009, 2013 National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the government.
(Questionnaire and code-book of year 2005 NHIS)
(3) Dependent variables:
a. Use Chinese medical service as the major medical measure to deal with illness (Yes vs. No)
b. Have >=1 outpatient visits for Chinese medicine treatment in the past month (Yes vs. No)
c. Aware Taiwan GMP regulation on Chinese medicine(Yes vs. No)
d. Knowledge of GMP is requirement for manufacturing Chinese medicine(Yes vs. No)
e. Knowledge of prescription requirement for Chinese medicine(Yes vs. No)
f. Experience of buying Chinese medicine without prescriptions from doctors(Yes vs. No)
(4) Independent variables: age, gender, education
(5) Statistical model: logistic regression
Over eight years, Taiwanese population has an increasing proportion of the elderly. Population with education of college or above become the majority society segment.
The results in Table 2 show that use of Chinese medicine service is not rare in the Taiwanese society. Only one third of the Taiwanese people have adequate knowledge regarding the regulation on Chinese medicine manufacturing and prescription. It is common to see that Taiwanese people purchase Chinese medicine without physician prescriptions.
The results of logistic regression is shown in Table 3. Compared with year 2005, there were less people using Chinese medicine as main medical measure in year 2009(OR=0.87) and 2013(OR=0.83) (Table 3). However, there were more likely for the Taiwanese to report visit Chinese medicine outpatient care in the last month in 2009(OR=1.11) and 2013(OR=1.20). Male and the elderly were less likely to use Chinese medicine than the reference groups. The likelihood of using Chinese medicine significantly increases with the educational level. Taiwanese people with education degree of senior high school are more like to buy Chinese medicine without physician’s prescriptions (OR=2.49).
The results of logistic regression on knowledge are shown in Table 4 . Knowledge regarding GMP on Chinese medicine is significantly associated with higher educational level. Similarly, knowing the requirement of doctor’s prescription for Chinese medicine purchase is significantly associated with higher education level.
Taiwanese used Chinese medicine as one of medical measures to cope with illness. Most of them did not know regulation and policies related to Chinese medicine, particularly less-educated group. Due to inadequate knowledge , they were under potential health risk of misusing Chinese medicine.
Media Analysis of Gene Technology/Synthetic Biology(This media analysis was done in collaboration with NYUM-Taipei, so all information are shared by both teams.)
Learning from the article “The role of social scientists in synthetic biology” written by Jane Calvert and Paul Martin, we understood that although there is no consensus on the definition of synthetic biology, there is a widespread conviction that it has important ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI), and that these should be explicitly addressed.
Whether gene technology/synthetic biology can be accepted and become prevalent and profound in a society depends on education. We believe the impact of education can’t be significant through sporadical, independent efforts by individuals. We know that media plays the most important role in influencing the knowledge, attitude and behavior of the people. Thus, we believe only through right and efficient media can GTSB be taken into consideration and become helpful technology adapted widely.
iGEM has been the most influential worldwide contest on synthetic biology. In the competition, students from every countries learn the greatest science part of this discipline. Furthermore, they learn more than gene engineering because they were exposed to different issues and problems in our society. We believe the fruitful iGEM wiki could be influential not only to the participants but also for the rest of world.
We were wondering what context of GTSB in media Taiwan people are exposed to. How well they can apprehend the content? What content is covered in the front wiki page of each iGEM team? Whether the content can be apprehended by iGEM participants and Non-iGEMers?
2. Objective: to investigate and assess the media context of GTSB in Taiwan media and in iGEM wiki
3. Research questions:
(1) Whether the sufficiency of translative scientific information of GTSB differ across types of media, content issues, and geographic area?
(2) Whether the understandability of translative scientific information of GTSB differ across types of media, content issues, and geographic area?
(3) Whether positive attitude toward GTSB differs types of media, content issues, and geographic area?
(1) Design: media analysis
- a. Source: three types of media
- ___Newspaper: We choose 170 pieces of news from 3 most-circulated newspapers in Taiwan—Liberty Times Net, AppleDaily and United Daily News. The first two newspapers account for 46.6% and 46.6% market share, perspectively. We retrieved the context of news related to GTSB for six months, from January to June of 2016.
- ___Magazine:We choose 50 articles from four magazines—Science American, Common Health Magazine, Newton and Business Weekly as our study subjects. Science American and Newton are two prestigious magazines in Taiwan. Common Health Magazine is famous for reporting health-related information. Business Weekly is the second popular magazine in Taiwan. We retrieved the contents in the past two years.
- ___iGEM wiki:We choose 30 websites from the best wiki and nominated for best wiki to analysis. We choose the “project description”, “at a glance”, “overview” part to analysis.
- b. Coding: NYMU-Taipei designed Google Forms to code information from media
(3) Dependent variables:
a. sufficiency of science translation related to GTSB, including viewpoints(>=1 vs 0), attribution of viewpoints(>=1 vs 0) and extended references(>=1 vs. 0);
b. understandability of science translation related to GTSB, including level of difficulty(Likert scale: 0-4; difficult: yes vs. no)
c.positive attitude toward GTSB (positive versus neutral/negative). There was very low percentage of negative attitude, so we combined them to neutral group.
(4) Independent variables: geographic area, content, type of media
(5) Statistical model: logistic regression
Due to small number of iGEM wiki, our analysis will focus on newspapers and magazines. Table 1 showed that the distribution of GTSB conent differs between newspaper and magazines. Magazines have higher proportion of issues related to science, medicine, and technology than news papers (80.0% vs 57.1%). Another difference between newspaper and magazines is about the geographic area in the report. Magazines have high percentage of international issues than newspapers (82.0% vs. 41.8%)
In terms of sufficiency of science translation in GTSB, newspapers and magazines are quite similar in number of viewpoints in the reports. Newspapers have slightly more perspectives than magaziens. However, magazines include more attribution for the perpective and provide more reference than newspapers(Table 1b).
In terms of understandability (Table 1c), it is quite obvious that articles in magazines are more likely to be difficult for readers to comprehend than articles in newspapers. Also, magazines have very higher percentage of including more than 3 technical terms in the articles than newspaper.
The logistic regression in Table 2 shows that the sufficiency of science translation media was signficantly related to the issues in terms of number of viewpoints. Compared to articles related to science issues, economic articles are less likely to include over 1 viewpoint. In provision of extended references, magazines are more likely to provide extended references. Provision of extended references were also related to content of science issues.
Table 3 shows that articles in magazines were far more likely to be difficult and having terminology than those in newspapers. Articles related to social issues were far less likely to be difficult or having more than 1 terminology than the articles related to science report. Interestingly, articles related to social issues are less likely to belong to “positive attitude” although only few of them are of negative attitude.
This is an exploratory study exmaining the science translation in GTSB in Taiwanese media. We found that science reports are the majority in the GTSB media reports, followed by social issues and economics. Most articles in Taiwanese media possess positive attitude toward GTSB, followed by neutral attitude. Articles in magazines are quite more difficult to understand than newspapers. Because magazines mainly reprot science reports on GTSB, we think improving understandability by reducing difficulties of the articles in magazines should be effective in promoting GTSB in Taiwan.