The Genome Editing Public Engagement Synergy (GEPES) programme was set up in response to a call from Sir Mark Walport, then acting as Chief Scientific Officer for the UK government. His call highlighted that there are key areas of science and technology which will have a significant impact on public life and require sustained and well-founded public engagement over time.
The goal of GEPES is to develop innovation and collective impact in public engagement within genome editing. Working with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and the Wellcome Genome Campus, we aim to bring together those with experience of engaging (or supporting others to engage) the public in genome editing and related fields, to synthesise learning, create tools to be shared, and to encourage high quality public engagement.
As an associate with the NCCPE I have project managed the GEPES project, working towards a number of outputs:
- A comprehensive map highlighting existing public engagement activity
- A framework to help elicit collective learning about public engagement with genome editing, including public attitudes to this area
- Recommendations for the future of public engagement with genome editing
- Resources for those wanting to engage including toolkits, guides and case studies
- Training modules to support researchers and public engagement professionals seeking to engage the public with genome editing
As a result of the project we hope to inspire new high quality activity, filling the gaps identified from the desk research.
What is Genome Editing?
Genome editing refers to the precise modification of a selected DNA sequence in a living cell. This area of research has potential for application in many areas of human, animal and environmental health. Alongside the prospective benefits of the technology, some applications bring significant ethical and societal concerns that need to be explored, and raise regulatory questions that need to be addressed. Given the transformative nature of this research, there are profound challenges in ensuring that the public are effectively engaged in both basic and clinical research, challenges which are made more urgent by the pace of discovery in this particular research area.