issues with the accessibility of science

The bio.display project is oriented around communicating the results of contemporary biology and making this all accessible to the everyday person. So that he can touch it, feel it, try it out – which makes him familiar with this era of technological development, and thus reduces the fear, uncertainty and doubt usually associated with DNA-related biotech.

But it seems that actually one of the obstacles on this road is raised jointly by both parties involved. Both society and the scientific community seem to have a consensus on raising a thick brick wall between them. On one side this seems like deliberate ignorance on people’s part: they just don’t want to know the gory details of life. On the other hand, this is also convenient for scientists, as random people don’t question what’s going on in the lab.

Unfortunately for me, this wall raised here is really a problem. One can’t just get the parts as a layperson to do DNA transformation at outside of a lab, and this seems to be ‘the right thing’ according to both scientists and lawyers. Even initiatives like OpenWetware, which really claim to be open to the public won’t respond to you if you’re not part of an established institution. Institutions like ATCC, which aim to provide proven material for experimentation on a non-profit basis will send stuff to you if you have a company letterhead, certified lab protocols, etc.

And even the most basic part of this, knowledge itself is guarded heavily, as one can’t access the scientific publications that provide all the background information. It’s not that you can’t actually buy it, but subscription prices are excessive for a single person, and thus the barrier of entry is quite high – it takes a well-funded organization to be part of this league.

Of course, the Science Commons initiative tries to solve this last issue, but its still in its infancy.

But I don’t really see how a better communication and mutual trust can be established between science and society without both parties opening up to each other.

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