The microbe/gene drive communication confusion

Last week I wrote a post about how genetic modification and/or gene drive are used when managing disease transmitting insects. I want to come back to this topic today and talk about another difference, which, yet again, confused me. I hope that these efforts of disentangling stuff also help other people trying to understand and …

Metaphors, machines and the meaning of life

Machine metaphors are ubiquitous in biology, nowhere more so than in synthetic biology, a type of biology that is inspired by engineering and design. This has attracted the attention of metaphor analysts, but also of philosophers and ethicists. Various scholars, both from the humanities/social sciences and the life sciences have grappled with some of the …

Mice, dice and copycats: Metaphors for gene drives in mammals

When you hear the word ‘gene drive’, you will either be baffled or you will think about mosquitoes, engineered to eradicate insect-born disease like malaria, Dengue fever, or Zika for example. But gene drive research has now moved from insects to mammals. Mammals On the 23rd of January, researchers at University of California, San Diego, …

Gene drive communication: Obstacles and opportunities

The other day I was talking to two people about various developments in science. Both are interested in science, but they are not natural scientists. I mentioned ‘gene drives’. Their faces went blank. I then said: “it’s something like the gene editing of a whole population of creatures, such as insects, for example. This can …

Making Science Public: End of year blog round-up, 2018

2018 is the year that the Leverhulme Trust funded programme ‘Making Science Public’ really ended (today our director Sujatha Raman is submitting the final report to the Leverhulme Trust). My last post on the programme, entitled ‘Making Science public: six years on’, mentioned one of the most important milestones of our work, namely the publication with Manchester …

Science, life and meaning

Sheila Jasanoff has published a new book entitled Can Science Make Sense of Life? This is a big question to which the answer, according to Betteridge’s law of headlines must be ‘no’. The title sets the tone for the book and opens up specific expectations for its readers. What expectations readers have depends on what they understand …

Why we should care about the language we use in science

This post first appeared in the ‘On Society’ blog at BioMed Central and is reposted here with permission. *** Brigitte Nerlich and Carmen McLeod at the Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Nottingham have given ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ a new twist, by focusing on responsible language use. As everybody knows by now, words matter in politics as …

Making science by publicity stunt: The case of the CRISPR babies

Science is supposed to be a public, systematic, consensible, evidence-based and collaborative enterprise. It’s also supposed to be carried out responsibly, not recklessly. Making science in public and making science public are complex processes. Making public science normally doesn’t consist in presenting fellow-scientists and members of the public with a ‘fait accompli’. This is however …