In June this year we, the iGEM Stockholm team, hosted a Nordic iGEM Conference (NiC), a meet-up for all Nordic iGEM teams. Around 80 people from different teams in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland attended. It was a three day conference with two workshops (Unsolved Ethics and Speculative Design of Synthetic Biology) with the purpose to encourage everyone to think and work on other aspects of their iGEM projects. We also organized a mini-Jamboree, where the requirements set by iGEM Headquarters were in focus, as well as social activities to get to know each other. This meet-up gave the teams an opportunity to get a feel of the big iGEM competition, refine their projects and seek collaborations with other teams, creating a platform to connect students with their peers in an international setting.
The teams that attended the conference are listed below.
Click to visit their wiki-pages!
iGEM Copenhagen University
iGEM Linköping University
Ever wondered how the future of biotechnology will look like? Or how synthetic biology could be used as a weapon of mass destruction, and for that reason why we should keep it safe?
As part of the Nordic iGEM Conference (NiC), we organized a small workshop called “Unsolved Ethics”. This one-hour workshop served to highlight ethical issues that may arise in synthetic biology, principles underlying these issues and how are they currently handled in society. The workshop was also made to stimulate ethical thinking which was one of the key goals of our Human Practices work. By acknowledging and discussing current ethical issues, the participants were given the chance to identify possible issues that could arise from their own projects and also receive professional feedback on points that they have come up with.
The workshop was mainly conducted by Marko Ahteensuu, a Collegium Researcher at the University of Turku, Finland, who specializes in ethics in biosecurity and synthetic biology. The workshop began with a short lecture by Marko where he mainly focused on “Naturalness” and “Ethics in Synthetic Biology”. The workshop proceeded with a discussion session and here participants discussed an ethical issue entitled “A Weapon of Mass Destruction” in small groups. Each group presented their own ideas regarding the issue, and the term “dual-use research” was touched upon. According to Marko’s lecture, dual-use is defined as work that could be use to terrorists as well as to legitimate researchers. Here, participants also discussed aspects of their own project that could pose as an ethical issue.
Through this “Unsolved Ethics” workshop we hoped to open our minds as well as minds of other iGEM members regarding ethical issues in synthetic biology. As young researchers, we should always consider the risks, or in this case the ethical consequence that could arise from the work that we are developing.
In this workshop, current developments in science and technology are extrapolated into alternative future realities, to discuss how the research areas could affect society and life itself. The scenarios are visualized and made tangible so that people who are not experts in the field can take part in the ethical discussion of how we want our future to look like.
The workshop started with a 30 minute presentation where the design field was introduced through a series of examples and projects. After that, the participants started in their own iGEM projects, creating speculative scenarios that discuss how their project might develop in the future both from a positive and negative point of view. The workshop aimed to help the iGEM teams answer the recurring question - How do you think this might be used in the future?
The Mini-Jamboree was an event during the conference where all Nordic Teams presented their synthetic biology projects. Each team had 10 minutes to present their project, followed by a short Q&A. There was a panel of judges that choose a winner based on the official iGEM criteria for standard tracks. We had the honor of having Vinoo from iGEM HQ at the mini-jamboree, and he gave an inspiring presentation and told us more about iGEM and things that can help us.
The judges were no less than Felix Richter, the iGEM Stockholm 2015 project leader, and Caroline Dahl, Head of Innovation & Research and Founder at Ortrud Medical. During the Gasque (a Swedish student dinner party) the same night the winners were announced. The prize was to carry on the honorable task of hosting next year's NiC. Congratulations to the UCPG 2016 iGEM Team from Denmark for their project "CosmoCrops"!
The whole Stockholm team would like to thank Vinoo and the judges, as well as everyone who attended the second NiC conference and contributed to a great experience and a sweet foretaste of what's to come in Boston at the great jamboree!
Future of NiC
To establish NiC as a yearly event, we wanted to design a common platform for the Nordic meet-ups and thus created the website igem-nordic.org, with the goal of letting each mini-Jamboree winner use the website for the planning, and marketing of the next conference! Hopefully, this platform can become a community for the Nordic teams to more easily communicate, spread information, arrange meet-ups and much more. This year was the second year for NiC but hopefully many more meet-ups will come!
NiC was sponsored by Fontana!