At the core of the ORION project is co-creation, which involves collaborating with different groups of people (public, policy, industry) to come up with new ideas to support and increase the impact of scientific research. Over the next two years the Babraham Institute, together with MDC in Germany, VA in Sweden, and CEITEC in the Czech Republic will launch a co-creation exercise on emerging technologies.
The focus of the co-creation exercises will be on genome editing techniques, since the latest of such techniques, CRISPR/Cas, may affect us all in the very near future, bringing potential risks as well as exciting opportunities to society. With this exercise we seek to learn how we can incorporate public thoughts in our work.
For example, if researchers at the Institute were to identify a gene which, if defective, could lead to problems with our immune system as we age, should genome editing be used to correct this? Should that same genome editing then be offered as a preventative therapy to healthy individuals or for those who are at risk? These questions are examples of issues we need to address in order to allow scientific advancement to progress hand in hand with public awareness.
To support the development of the project, Babraham Institute organised a public dialogue workshop in April, with engagement expert, Simon Burall. Simon works for Involve, an organisation that supports the UK government to plan and deliver its science programme. At the workshop, we discussed how to approach this co-creation work to bring together the four research Institute’s expertise, how to explore opinions, hopes and concerns across the four countries and how to reflect this into our work. Our plan is to share our researchers’ expertise in genome editing with different audiences, including other academics and higher education organisations; the public sector and government; and the general public and civic societies and to facilitate open discussions.