What do people think about synthetic biology? - 2020 Science
The fifth Hart survey of what American adults think about emerging technologies like nanotechnology and synthetic biology was released today by my former colleagues at the Woodrow Wilson Center – the first since I left the group earlier this year. Each summer for the past five years, the Wilson Center has commissioned Hart Research Associates to poll around 1000 adults via telephone on what they’ve heard of nanotechnology, and what they think about it. in 2008, we started to introduce questions on synthetic biology. With three years’ worth of data on synbio, it’s still too early to quantify trends. But some indications of where awareness and perceptions are going are beginning to emerge. This was going to be a potentially interesting year for the survey, given J. Craig Venter’s announcement earlier this year of the first living and reproducing organism with an artificially constructed genome earlier this year. I say potentially, as it’s hard to tell from the figures whether this event had a significant impact on the data presented – while 24% of adults polled recalled hearing something about the breakthrough, there was a smaller increase in the number of people who’d heard about synbio between 2009 and 2010, than there was between 2008 and 2009. The full report from the survey can be accessed here, so I’m not going to give a blow by blow account of the findings. But I did want to highlight one or two things that caught my attention. Awareness of synthetic biology Since the first survey including synbio in 2008, awareness of the technology has been increasing (see below) Percentage of people polled who had heard a lot, nothing or something about synthetic biology. (“Heard something” includes people who had heard just a little, something or a lot). Source: Hart Research Associates. The