Groundhog day in the hothouse

On 6 August Will Steffen and others published a paper entitled “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”. The paper explores “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a …

Synthetic biology: Modelling joys and fears brick by brick

Carmen McLeod, Stevienna de Saille and I recently published an article in which we used findings from a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop to show that scientists’ (synthetic biologists’) views of risk and responsibility are much more ‘societal’ than one might expect. This means, involving them in a new form of science governance (RRI), which itself involves new …

Bacteria, metaphors and responsible language use

A lot has been written about the war on bacteria, especially in the context of antimicrobial resistance. Some articles reflect on the metaphor of war in medicine and in microbiology more generally, others deal with the metaphors of bacterial communication and communities. A few papers look more closely at the way bacteria are anthropomorphised in the …

Data harvesting: A metaphor ripe for scrutiny

At the end of March news of a data scandal broke – you all know which one. As Steven Poole in The Guardian wrote: “The political data firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of unauthorised ‘data harvesting’ from millions of Facebook accounts. This handily avoids allegations of ‘theft’ or even just ‘mining’”. Data harvesting is not only …

In the shadow of Frankenstein: Mapping and manipulating genes and genomes

I was starting to prepare a talk for Pint of Science in May, for “The Body” strand, which this year here in Nottingham focuses on regenerative medicine and genetic engineering. It’s entitled “GMYou”. I know, it’s a long way off, but they needed a title and so I began to muse. In the end I …

Catching a metaphor on the fly: ‘Greenfield genome design’

A week ago, something interesting washed up in my twitter stream, something a metaphor collector like me had to pick up and inspect. Andrew Hanson, an expert in metabolic engineering working at the University Florida, tweeted: “Excellent short 2016 piece from @claudiaevickers on #synbio platforms & the future of the microbial cell factory industry. Coins …

Genome editing: Invisible mending

Last week I had a few days in Oxford to visit old haunts, such as the Ashmolean, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I also went to a little exhibition in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science. The exhibition by Anna Dumitriu was entitled BioArt and Bacteria. …

Genome editing, metaphors and language choices

Genetic Alliance and the Progress Educational Trust recently published a report entitled ‘’Basic understanding of genome editing”, based on research supported by the Wellcome Trust. As I have worked on metaphors relating to genetic, genomics and genome editing for more than twenty years, I was particularly interested in this report. Unlike many other publications, including …