Continuing the genetic technologies conversation

Today we are proud to announce that the Royal Society has published the results of research commissioned from Hopkins Van Mil on Potential uses for genetic technologies. The full report is available here and the executive summary here

This was a five month programme of research involving:

  • 3 themed and linked dialogues on applications to humans, plants and animals
  • In three locations: London, Norwich and Edinburgh
  • Involving 84 members of the public across a broad demographic
  • Plus a nationally representative survey of 2061 people to validate the public dialogue findings

The work forms part of a wider programme on genetic technologies by the Royal Society chaired by Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Crick Institute. At the press launch today Robin spoke of the main dialogue findings including:

  • A cautious optimism for genetic technologies
  • With a number of caveats which frame their support
  • The opportunity there is to better inform society about genetic technologies
  • The opportunity to update the genetic technologies narrative and have a more informed dialogue with the public about genetic technologies and all of their potential applications as part of a package of solutions to unprecedented global challenges

During the panel discussion with Sarah Chan, University of Edinburgh and Jonathan Napier, Rothamsted Institute both spoke of the value of dialogue.  

When it came to the ethical issues people were very engaged...what we saw through the process was that giving them that extended time to explore and to discuss those issues was really beneficial in helping them to get to grips not just with the science, but with the ethical and social arguments around genetic technologies.
— Sarah Chan, University of Edinburgh
Participants really appreciated the fact that it was a dialogue as opposed to a uni-lateral, uni-directional communication. I think that was the key to it. It allowed them to learn iteratively. Basically I think it made them a bit more empowered.
— Jonathan Napier, Rothamsted Institute

The independent evaluation of the dialogue programme highlighted that, 

The style of facilitation and continuity between events and sensitive handling of individuals with special needs or who tended to dominate, led to a very positive dynamic within small groups and a unanimous feeling that all participants had found their voice and been heard.
— Anna MacGillivray, Ursus Consulting, Independent Evaluators

At Hopkins Van Mil we are delighted to have worked on such a topical and rewarding programme. We are grateful to all the dialogue participants and survey respondents. To hear more from them directly on how they found the process click here