Study «Synthetic Biology in Society: A new technology under public discussion»
Why conduct a TA-SWISS project on this subject?
In recent years, there have been a great many publications and expert reports on the subject of Synthetic Biology. They provide an overview of the story of a field that is still in its infancy and of what the present situation is; they also deal with questions of biosecurity and with ethical aspects. But there are many questions which are still unresolved. It is accordingly unclear whether Synthetic Biology really is something new or whether it is a continuation of gene technology.
In the light of the above TA-SWISS has decided to bring the social debate about Synthetic Biology to the fore in a preliminary investigation, because the subject field that is currently evolving lends itself to pursuing the question of how a still largely unknown branch of research is to be conveyed to the public – and what misunderstandings might arise between the specialist community and the (lay) public.
Analysis of the reporting
In terms of method the study is based on an analysis of the reporting in the Swiss media after 2004. The media studies evaluation will be supplemented by a workshop in each of the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland; at these events the results of the media analysis will be presented to experts from science and administration and discussed with them. The aim is to identify any misunderstandings in communication and to gain some insights into problematic expressions and metaphors.
A team from the University of Bern
The study has been entrusted to a team from the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Bern: Silke Adam, Hannah Schmid-Petri and Stefanie Knocks have a thorough understanding of media studies and political science and can also create cross-references to the analysis of other scientific and environmental themes (especially climate change).
Project start: November 2012 | completion: February 2014
Results and downloads
Abschlussbericht: Synthetische Biologie in der Gesellschaft. Eine neue Technologie in der öffentlichen Diskussion. Abschlussbericht dt. Hannah Schmid-Petri, Stafanie Knocks, Patricia Sager, Silke Adam (Institut für Kommunikations- und Medienwisenschaft, Universität Bern). April 2014. TA-SWISS (Hrsg.)
Rapport Final: La biologie synthétique dans la société. Une nouvelle technologie dans le débat public. Rapport final fr. Hannah Schmid-Petri, Stefanie Knocks, Patricia Sager, Silke Adam (Institut des sciences de la communication et des médias, Université de Berne). Avril 2014. TA-SWISS (éd.)
- Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS
- Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI
TA-SWISS Project Supervisors
- Dr Lucienne Rey, TA-SWISS. E-Mail (Project Supervisor)
- Dr Sergio Bellucci, TA-SWISS
- Christine D’Anna-Huber, TA-SWISS
- Dr Adrian Rüegsegger, TA-SWISS
- Silke Adam, Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Bern ICMB
- Stefanie Knocks, ICMB
- Hannah Schmid-Petri, ICMB
- Prof Dr Ueli Aebi, Biozentrum, University of Basel
- Alain Kaufmann, Interfaccia scienza-società, University of Lausanne
- Thomas Müller, Swiss Radio DRS, Basel
- Prof Katharina Prelicz-Huber, Vpod, Zürich
- Prof. Dr. Oreste Ghisalba, Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI
Available on completion of project
CH-3011 Bern T + 41 31 310 99 60
F + 41 31 310 99 61
The project in brief
The study will investigate the reporting of Synthetic Biology in selected print media from the German- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. Discussions with experts should then enable any misunderstandings in conveying this newly evolving scientific discipline to be clarified.
Project: November 2012 – February 2014
Products: Code book and working report on the content analysis and the expert workshops held.
Project management: Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Bern ICMB