Mutual learning workshop on Synthetic Biology

Mutual learning workshop on Synthetic Biology

An exciting ‘Knowledge sharing and Mutual Learning training workshop’ was held in Brussels on the 8-9th of April 2014.

As we are still in the early stages of this project, this workshop provided the perfect opportunity for the third party science centres and museums to meet the Synenergene partners. In addition, we were also pleased to welcome two local iGEM teams to the event (KU Leuven and Ghent University) and Carlos Maria Romeo Casabona (University de Deusto, Spain), an external expert in the field of Law, who introduced ‘legal aspects of synthetic biology’.

At the workshop, everybody was given the opportunity to learn more about key topics of the Synenergene project outside of their own field of expertise, including the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach to SynBio.

As SynBio is a new and emerging field, it was important to gain a principle understand of the basic concepts. Both Winfried Roemer (University of Freiburg) a synthetic biology specialist, as well as our two iGEM teams gave talks on their science projects. This provided the perfect opportunity for everyone to get ‘up to speed’ about this new and exciting field that fuses engineering and biology to create new life.

As SynBio is a relatively new scientific concept, it is not surprising that the general public is less aware of this emerging field. Ideas on how to train research scientists in SynBio communication, involve the public in science and technology issues and how to engage the public with Synbio were discussed.

A questions and answers session for the sciences centres and museums allowed the Synenergene consortium to learn about the wonderful activities these public engagement experts are involved in. Participants also took part in an activity to identify their perception on SynBio in a ‘frame reflection’ session and worked in groups to develop creative SynBio public engagement activities.

A morning session was devoted to learn and discuss Synbio ethical, legal and social issues. This gave the science museums and centres the perfect opportunity to think about how they might incorporate these important aspects into public engagement activities.

At the end of the workshop, a discussion on online participatory channels gave partners the opportunity to consider the important use of online media in effectively promoting and evaluating Synenergene events.

As this project is starting to gain pace, this workshop provided a fantastic opportunity to foster relationships between all members of Synenergene, as well as the opportunity to debate emerging SynBio issues. The outcomes of the workshop will be compiled by Ecsite, who will then co-ordinate the production of a Toolkit that will outline the ‘guidelines and best practices on SynBio public engagement, informal learning, challenges in scientific research and ELSA.


Halina Novak & Luisa Marino