Assessment report on online public opinion about SynBio
Work package 6 comprises many activities regarding communication and dissemination within the SYNENERGENE project. Specifically speaking, the aim is to raise attention to the project SYNENERGENE itself as well as to reach out to actors beyond the already participating MMLAP consortium partners by assessing online opinions and providing information. This report focuses on task 6.2, conducted by Zebralog, University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. It includes the assessment of online public opinion about SynBio (synthetic biology) by identifying actors and arenas in the online sphere that “talk” about that topic.
Therefore, this task combines two missions: first - to find the “speakers” and second - to analyse and interpret the “talk”. The Mobilisation and Mutual Learning Action Plan of the European Union is the frame of the SYNENERGENE project and it is its goal to foster a two-way dialogue between researchers and other stakeholders - our so-called “speakers”. In order to get in touch with relevant stakeholders it is necessary to find them in the first place. This is the foremost contribution of the first mission: the creation of a database of “speakers”, people or institutions, which have an interest in SynBio or neighbouring fields of science in the widest sense. Following the web analysis, a communication concept of how the arenas and actors found can be addressed and activated as multipliers the SYNENERGENE project will be proposed. Moreover, the result of the web analysis, the database of SynBio “speakers”, has a unique value as it is probably one of the first repositories that list so many stakeholders regarding synthetic biology and RRI.
To contribute to the second mission, the analysis of online talk about SynBio, a frequency and sentiment analysis was conducted on the basis of the repository in order to extract some rudimentary facts about the content of the conversation in these texts. Although preliminary, this analysis helped to corroborate the results by highlighting some characteristics of the online discourse that correspond to the expectations. Furthermore, the analysis sheds light on the way the identified actors are involved in the discourse on SynBio, and it contributes to the growing research field of online content analysis.