Gene drive in the press: Between responsible research and responsible communication

Gene drive is a controversial genetic engineering technique that allows scientists to modify genes so that they quickly spread through a population without following the typical rules of heredity; this can include genes that are of no benefit to the plant or animal involved. Research into gene drives has accelerated since 2015 when another new …

Gene drives and metaphors

I have been writing about developments in the biosciences for twenty years. In that time, I have covered a wide variety of topics, such as cloning, genomics, the human genome project, the microbiome project, faecal microbial transplants, synthetic biology, epigenetics, genome editing and now gene drive. I was lucky enough to get many reflections on …

Making Science Public 2021: End of year round-up of blog posts

We are coming to the end of a another pandemic year, and time seems to expand endlessness towards an uncertain horizon. That means quite a few of my blog posts this year were still devoted to covid and the pandemic, but I also wrote about genetics, climate change and some other incidental topics. As usual, …

Gene drives and societal narratives

Some days ago, I came across an interesting virtual conference (HT @Sarah_A_Hartley) about gene editing which includes a session on ‘societal narratives’. I have written quite a bit about societal narratives of gene editing, but more recently I became involved in the issue of ‘gene drive’, that is, “a system of biased inheritance in which …

Gene drives and Trojan horses: A tale of two metaphor uses

I was reading a recent article on gene drive entitled “Engineering bugs, resurrecting species: The wild world of synthetic biology for conservation” and came across this sentence about a so-called ‘Medea drive’: “This genetic Trojan Horse could then be used to spread elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as triggering the death …

Moral Dilemmas in Science Journalism about Genetics Research: The case of gene drives

Guest post by Rebecca Hardesty, Ph.D. Rebecca Hardesty is a postdoctoral scholar in science education and communication at UC San Diego in its Division of Biological Sciences and the Teaching + Learning Commons. *** The New York Times Magazine rang in the New Year with a featured piece by Jennifer Kahn recounting the promises and …

Gene drive and grey squirrels: Science and media

At the beginning of January 2019 an article, entitled “Accelerating Evolution” appeared in The Biologist, a journal published by the Royal Society of Biology (The Biologist 66(6) p18-21). The authors, Bruce Whitelaw and Gus McFarlane, work at the Roslin Institute in Scotland which was involved with the creation of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1996, coincidentally the occasion of …

Communicating gene drive: The dangers of misleading headlines

As some of you know, I am interested in how people communicate about ‘gene drive’, a new biotechnology that can potentially be used to eradicate disease transmitting animals. Wiping out the daughters Some days ago, I saw a tweet that mentioned an article published in The Guardian entitled “Wiping out the daughters: Burkina Faso’s controversial …