When scientific findings aim to be introduced into a real-world system they require the input and integration of thoughts from potential users. This fact led the Macquarie_Australia iGEM team to strive to gain the perspectives of rural Australian farmers, the primary target consumers of the hydrogen producing synthetic organism.
Students from the Macquarie iGEM team travelled to the Clyde River Region, 5 hours south of Sydney, NSW. The team visited remote regions along unmaintained dirt roads to discuss their research with independent rural farmers that work in a range of business environments, from berry and rooster farming, to environmentally sustainable eco-lodgings.
They had organised to discuss an array of topics surrounding synthetic biology, wanting to learn about:
- The farmer’s knowledge of the field of synthetic biology.
- Their feelings and opinions on such research and technology.
- Whether they would be interested in implementing such a system.
The team moved away from the confines of the lab to better understand what our target audience knew about synthetic biology and to better understand out project from a community based perspective. The interviews with the farmers were recorded so that their questions and concerns relating to synthetic biology and the teams design concept could be addressed in a documentary style video. Overall the team wanted to gain ideas on the designed system and synthetic biology as a whole. This experience left the team with personal connections and innovative ideas that could never be developed in a lab alone.
Representatives from team Macquarie returned to the Clyde River to host a rural, outdoor screening of our finalised outreach documentary. Our goal was to ensure that all of concerns and questions raised by the farmers were addressed in either the documentary or in the accompanying, detailed explanation of our final design concept of [The Living Battery]
The active engagement with the farmers and their resulting positive responses regarding synthetic biology was something that truly motivated Team Macquarie and taught us the real importance of science communication.