2016 Archive

Salon I – Public Understanding of Science


Everyone agrees that science communication is important, but no one seems to agree how it should be done. Science communication–particularly science writing–is subject to criticism from multiple directions: for hype, for oversimplification, for inaccuracy, for uncritically taking scientists at their word. This session will explore the complications and contradictions of communicating science to the public. What do these criticisms suggest about how science communication is and should be done? What is it, really, that the public should know about science?

Salon II – Medicine and Identity


Growing interest in personalized medicine has generated initiatives that aim to develop medicines for demographic groups based on characteristics like race and gender. This session will examine the complex ways in which medical science shapes ideas about identity at the level of both social groups (for instance, race and gender) and individuals (for instance, personality characteristics and mental health). How does science draw on and reinforce social concepts of identity? What are the implications for policy design?

Salon III – Bioscience as Change Agent

Texts: Berg1974Baltimore2015

Last year, a group of scientists and bioethicists published an editorial in Science calling for a moratorium on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for germline genome modification, drawing comparisons to the 1975 Asilomar letter calling for voluntary deferral of certain kinds of recombinant DNA research. This session will compare the rhetoric of these two influential statements. How does the language and framing of these two letters portray bioscience and its capacity for change? What do they suggest about our collective ability to shape the course of technological change?

Salon IV – Dual-Use Research of Concern


Biological research is frequently conducted with the goal of improving human welfare, but some experimental results have the potential to damage public health and safety through accidental or intentional misuse. In several recent cases, scientific institutions have placed limits on the publication or conduct of certain kinds of research. This session will examine the complications of such dual-use research of concern. How can scientists, policymakers, and the public assess the risks and benefits of potential lines of inquiry? Who ultimately decides what risks are worth taking?

Salon V – Citizen Science


For the past century, scientific research has primarily been conducted by highly trained individuals working in accredited institutions, but the internet and other technological changes have made it easier for non-specialists to be involved. This session will explore multiple models of public involvement in the daily practice of scientific research, ranging from citizen science to crowdfunding to DIYbio. What are the goals of citizen science, and how well do existing projects fulfill them? What new models remain to be explored?

Salon VI – Utility of Basic Research


Curiosity-led research drives technological progress. Since the end of World War II, public funding for science in the United States has been built upon this principle, yet basic research occasionally draws public scrutiny for its seeming whimsy and irrelevance. This session will examine arguments about the utility of basic research and the conceptions of the research enterprise that they set forth. What are the societal roles and responsibilities of basic research? What evidence links basic science to technological progress–and does it matter?

Salon VII – Movie Night:


Join us for our first Genomics Salon movie night! We will be watching Gattaca, a 1997 movie depicting a dystopian future shaped through the power of eugenics and genetic engineering. We’ll start the event with a brief introduction of the film’s themes and wind down with informal discussions.

Salon VIII – Science and Science Fiction


Science fiction uses current scientific and technological concepts to imagine alternative futures, and in doing so, it illuminates hopes and fears associated with the scientific enterprise. This session will explore the images of science that are created within speculative fiction. What do the tropes and archetypes of science fiction suggest about how the public views science? What can scientists learn from science fiction?

Salon IX – TV Night:
The TV Scientist


Following up on our discussion of science and science fiction, join us to analyze how scientists are portrayed in a series of clips from modern TV shows. This discussion will consider society’s relationships with science and scientists and ask what scientists can learn from these portrayals.

Salon X – Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing


Companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA offer consumers the ability to study and interpret their own genetic information – sometimes with controversial consequences. This session will explore the ethical, social, and policy issues surrounding direct-to-consumer genetic testing. What conceptions of genomics are advanced by these tests? How are consumers interacting with their “raw” or uninterpreted genotype data? How can and should scientists, policymakers, and the public respond to this new era of personal genomics?