DNA in dialogue

Doing dialogue and DNA: how to articulate societal issues for genomics research agendas


  1. How can dialogue between genomics scientists and publics be shaped in order to enable the articulation of genomics-related public issues for a socially robust development and application of genomics research?
  2. How do researchers who work on research projects of the Centre for Society and Genomics relate to, interpret and substantiate the interactive profile of the centre’s research programme?

Duration: January 2008 - present 

Promoting interaction among the various parties involved in the relationship between society and genomics is quite a task. However, the rapid developments in the field of genetics and the associated emergence of genomics in society do imply that it is crucial. This project therefore entails the study of the following three forms of interaction (jointly) organised by a PhD student and a senior researcher:

  1. meetings arranged by and held in public debating centres, and
  2. interactive forms of research into genomics from the perspective of social sciences and the humanities.

1. Public events
Researcher: Koen Dortmans

Subproject 1 involves a study of the progress of dialogue between scientists and citizens in plenary debates, and the possible means of improving this. The aim is to reveal which criteria are important in ensuring that interaction between the scientists and the public actually takes place, instead of descending to the level of one-way traffic. Issues that arose in this context included the following: Who should be invited, what is the topic, how specific should it be, and in what sort of setting should the debate be organised?

To this end, the researchers are organising various meetings on a range of themes in the interface of genomics and society. These meetings are to be described in detail and subsequently analysed. The analysis should serve as the basis for the issue of guidelines for future public debates. 

2. Interactive research in theory and practice
Researcher: Maud Radstake

Subproject 2 looks at the degree in which researchers in the social sciences and humanities participating in the research programme of the Centre for Society and Genomics are involved in the instruction to perform interactive and relevant research aimed at improving the relationship between genomics and society, and how they express that interaction in their project.

How important is it to CSG researchers that their study is relevant or has an impact? What role do these considerations play in the manner how they perform their project? To what degree is their research interactive and what does that mean?

In order to answer these questions, the project members conduct interviews with CSG researchers and study philosophical and socio-scientific literature. Based on this analysis, a model is developed for interactive social research. Together with the CSG researchers, it is then studied whether the model actually helps to make their research more relevant.