Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Behind the scenes..

by Cameron Duguid - Documentary Filmmaker in Residence

'Topographies of the Genome' - Deborah Robinson
Well, how time flies with so much is going on- I’m a good few steps behind with this!

After a hectic 3 day trip to Lancaster, Cardiff and Exeter my mind is buzzing. A wide range of enlightening and thought provoking meetings, and a great chance to see sequencing in action. I’ll write more on our trip once my flitting thoughts have settled a little!

Over the previous weeks it has been inspiring to talk with and attend seminars by Deborah Robinson with interesting ideas on engaging with science in art. Of huge relevance to me as I feel that, having started off at art college, I have moved away from the open artistic projects I worked on in college, towards more conventional documentary making and science communication- less critical and not drawing in an abstracted ways from science and scientists. I have a tendency to get caught up in trying to find ways to illustrate molecular goings on, rather than outwardly observing.

I've visited a few labs in different countries, and have definitely subconsciously assessed their cleanliness (Lausanne- super clean: closer to home- possibly less so! Although I may have been influenced by bad decor and a lack sparkling stainless steel) However, actually thinking of the dust under a lab machine as a subject for art, as with Deborah's Genomic Dirt project I find really inspiring. That kind of more divergent thinking is really interesting, and in no small way part of a picture of the daily life of scientists.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Photographing the Genomics Forum..

by Georgina Wood
Genomics Forum, Photographer in Residence

Working with the Genomics Forum was a great opportunity for me to continue my practice after graduating from ECA.

During the residency I attended several different events organised by the Forum and was able to learn a lot about Genomics and the Forums work. At the start of the residency I researched several different areas. Once I had a clearer idea of the current topics and the work that the forum carried out, I was able to narrow down my research and base my ideas around one topic.

I was interested in the current and future status of Bio-fuels and their expected contributions towards renewable energy. It was clear from my research that Bio-fuels were not a problem free answer to our energy demands, however with future developments it seemed that it could be possible to improve on current sources of Bio-fuel and use these resources to contribute towards our energy requirements.
As my work is often based around the environment, this was a fantastic opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of an area of particular interest to me.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bright ideas, pandemics, social media, and the odd monster...

Blog by Marina Levina: Genomics Forum Bright Ideas Fellow

As my three weeks as a Bright Ideas Fellow at the Genomics Forum end I can’t help but wonder at the whirlwind adventure that this has been.  First, I would like to thank everyone at the Forum for being absolutely lovely and making me feel welcome.  The accommodation and the office were great.   And I really like Edinburgh – what a peaceful and beautiful city it is.  I am looking forward to coming back to it many times over. 

I used my time at the Forum to do a bit of travelling around the Genomics Network.  I presented my work on pandemics and digital technologies at the Cesagen/Department of Sociology event at the University of Lancaster and at Egenis’ Health, Technology and Society research group at the University of Exeter.  These were invaluable experiences.  They allowed me, for the first time, to talk about my book project (on pandemics in the media) and, as a result, I have a much clearer idea of what the book needs to look like.   Being able to visualize the project is important to me as a writer and I am very grateful for these invitations and for hospitality and generosity of my fellow academics at these institutions.  Plus, I believe that I have made connections that will lead to fruitful collaborations in the future. 

I have also travelled to the 4S/EASST conference in Copenhagen, which was a good opportunity to connect with several of my colleagues. 

Finally, I presented my work at a CafĂ©Scientifique here in Edinburgh.  This was a bit scary as it required making my work accessible to the general public and also speaking without assistance of slides or media clips.  As a media studies person, I love my clips and images so I was frightened!  But it went over well, and I applaud those who braved rain and fog to come out for the event.  I did reenact a film scene or two – but I guess you can see the video for those embracing moments.  It was liberating to just talk to folks about my work.  I want to thank Steph Wright for organizing the event, for shuttling me to and fro, and for introducing me to Simon’s Cat. 

It was a busy and rewarding time here at the Forum.  Thank you everyone for making it possible! 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Week Three - Genetic Dating

by Cameron Duguid - Documentary Filmmaker in Residence

Having been intrigued in my first week by the mention of ‘the genetics of scent and attraction’, I must admit, I did kind of brush it off as a novelty subject. However, after a conversation with visiting fellow Craig Roberts, this intrigue quickly developed into serious consideration and my new found interest in genetic dating sites was sparked. The actual implications of this genomic information being used by dating agencies became apparent, and so many questions sprung to mind.

What happens if you are already in a relationship, and, through fateful curiosity, decide to check whether you are compatible with regards to making immune resilient babies? What if the test turns up any other potential hereditary genetic issues? If MHC compatibility is AOK, but the chance of a different genetic disorder are high- what moral obligation do companies dealing with genetic information have to inform of other findings? Or is it only the MHC genes which are assessed? If so how is the testing of individual genes regulated and how are the results stored?...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

19 September 2012 - Week Two!

by Lindsay Goodall - Documentary Filmmaker in Residence

N and I were sitting in Time 4 Thai on North Castle Street having a quick catch up lunch. It’s the first time I’d seen her since starting at the Forum, and I was telling her what I’d been up to last week and told her all about the Caryl Churchill play I’d been to see at the Traverse on Tuesday.

It’s about a father and his son, sons, who are clones, and about the son(s) confronting their, his, their, father, and it raises questions about the essence of identity, and the ethics of human cloning, and the discussion afterwards touched on everything from post-Marxist playwriting to medical tourism and the selling of organs; and from science as a commercial enterprise to how much of our genome we share with gorillas; and one audience member raised the question whether scientists should be held morally accountable for the science and technology they create; and then there was also a debate about economics and the right to bear children and then someone made a point about the semantics of the phrase ‘to have children’; and then the archetypal mad scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep claimed that she’s not really a clone after all, just a genomic copy.
I concluded by telling N that it’s a really well-known play and when it premiered 10 years ago it even starred Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig.
“Mmmm, I’d like to clone Daniel Craig” replied N before biting into a crispy vegetable spring roll.

Peter Arnott, playwright in residence at The Forum, directed the rehearsed reading of A Number and was kind enough to do an on-camera interview with me in between rehearsals. The video will be on the Forum website soon along with some highlights from the Q&A.