At Aix-Marseille university, we think that the public engagement is crucial for science. Helping science and technology awareness for all must be a priority. Therefore, we chose to participate in some events, giving us the opportunity to explain synthetic biology and molecular engineering to the general public.
This topic was particularly important for us, in France, because the public image of GMOs and synthetic biology is generally awful. Our team wanted to establish communication with the public to converse with them about benefits and drawback of synthetic biology.
March for Science
One of our first event to participate into was the March for Science that happened in Marseille the 22nd of April. We felt very concerned about this topic since we all are in the scientific field. We thought participating in science events was a way for us to extend our message farther and to show our support to scientific institutions. Encouraging scientific research is an investment for the future generations, and science should have a greater role in policy making. The first step toward that goal is for us, scientific communities, to learn how to reach out to the public, and we saw in this event a good opportunity to do so.
Provence Agricultural Fair
During our Human Practices reflexion, we had identified farmers as the mains actors in our project. To get to know their needs and concerns, we went to an agricultural fair, which is called "Salon des agricultures de Provence". We met olive farmers and interviewed them about Xylella fastidiosa. This type of event is well known in France, and we were able to meet plenty of people. These interviews were very helpful since it helped us to figure out their preference in the distribution manner (injection, spraying, soil treatment..). We also took into consideration their opinion about the GMO matter and changed our phage approach to fit more to their needs. Thanks to this event we were able to reconsider the project design to fit olives growers needs and design environmental tests to carry out.
Marseille Science Village
As student ourselves, it's truly important to us to communicate and inspire the future generation into science. That's why we were eager to participate in "Science Village". This event is organized every year by the French Ministry of higher education and research all over the territory. During all the event in Marseille, we hosted a stall with a DNA extraction activity, and presented a project about KILL XYL project. We also encouraged the middle schooler we met to think about new possibilities thanks to the synthetic biology. We had a Banana with the taste of kiwis proposition!
Polytech Marseille, the school of three of our team members, organized like each year a biotechnology forum. Every time the topic is quite different but it always speaks about biology and innovation. We saw it as an opportunity to present our project to biotechnology students and teachers. We gave a talk and a poster about our KILL XYL project. This provides us with a lot of interesting feedbacks. This forum was also the first opportunity to present the iGEM competition to new students. This will help to recruit a new team next year, full of motivated and talented students.
Public opinion should always be taken into account in all product conception and design steps. Therefore, we did a public survey, first to increase awareness of the problem posed by Xylella fastidiosa, and second to find out their opinion about our project.
After the public survey mentioned above, we realized that the communication about X. fastidiosa wasn't enough. Thus, we contacted a local press, Var Matin, to fix this problem. A journalist came to interview us about our project and the competition. In the end, we will have 3 articles in this newspaper, the last one being after the Giant Jamboree.