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.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Letting the Genome out of the Bottle - Lone Frank, 27 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Hazel McHaffie

Genomics - essentially the study of all the genes of a cell or tissue at the DNA level - is a relatively new field of enquiry. And it's been said that the map of the human genome is 'the most wondrous map ever produced by humankind'. It has certainly raised huge questions for society, and the knowledge it provides has widespread consequences for individuals, for families and for society.

Lone Frank is an internationally acclaimed Danish science writer with a PhD in neurobiology, who has grappled with these questions, and written a fascinating book, My Beautiful Genome: Exposing our Genetic Future One Quirk at a Time. To see her is to instantly think that she's been blessed with more than her fair share of favourable genes - good looks and brains, performance skills as well as rigorous analytical powers.

The elements were against us on this occasion with rain thundering down on the roof of the Book Festival’s theatre, and a rather end-of-term feeling on this last day of the Book Festival. She though, was probably less surprised by the fact the event was not a sell out: when she proposed writing a book on this subject, friends warned her that nobody would be interested in genomics. On the contrary, people are, and the questions reflected considerable knowledge of her field. She was challenged more than once to explain her terms and the accuracy of her statements. My own limited understanding means I can only report what I've gleaned from her words and her book.

Friday, 24 August 2012

When Tough Decisions are on the Menu - Helen FitzGerald & Herman Koch, 24 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Hazel McHaffie

How much responsibility should parents take for their children? And how far would you be prepared to go for those you love? When is it right to sacrifice the good of an individual for a greater good of the many? These are important questions for individuals and for society. And questions that hold a particular appeal for me right now since I'm exploring them in my current novel about organ donation and child protection. So I went along to the Spiegeltent with high hopes early on Friday morning.

But the first question that struck me once I arrived was why were so few people interested in these questions/authors? The ambience in the Spiegeltent is friendly and relaxed, coffees on tap, but only a tiny group of people attended. Was it simply too early in the morning? Or do readers not want to address such hard issues? Are there implications here for novelists like me?

The chairman, agent Jenny Brown, set a light tone to what could have been a difficult event with a quip about the similarity of the titles: The Dinner and The Donor, which led nicely into a question about the use of comedy in both books. It came naturally to both authors. Though Australian Helen Fitzgerald was formerly a criminal justice social worker, working with rapists, murderers and psychopaths, she is herself one of thirteen children. She therefore grew up with humour part of her normal currency, a reality which she took into her professional life too. Indeed, she misses the rich source of material provided by her work with criminals, now that she has become a full time novelist. Humour in his writing came easily to Dutch TV and radio producer, actor and writer Herman Koch, too, because his TV work involved comedy.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The scientist in fiction – does science and literature have more in common than we imagine? - 22 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Chris Berry

When mention is made of science and literature, it is all too easy to immediately think of the genre that is “sci-fi”. Engaging and important though the literary genre of science fiction is, it by no means represents the only manifestation of science and scientists in creative writing. Since science started to have a major impact upon society – during the Victorian period – it simultaneously began to have an influence upon literature. From Frankenstein to Dr Jekyll , from HG Well’s Time Machine to Ian Fleming’s Dr No, science and scientists form a rich vein that runs through much of our recent literature.

But does fiction portray scientists (and science) accurately? Are scientists, in reality, merely boring academics or are they more akin to the creative – or sometimes crazed - geniuses frequently represented in the pages of novels? These were some of the questions up for consideration in the ESRC Genomics Forum’s final event at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival: Scientists in Fiction- Creative or Crazed Genius?

Wild foods in Charlotte Square - Steve Benbow & Alys Fowler, 22 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Christine Knight

My Wednesday afternoon was truly inspiring, kicking off in style at the Edinburgh International Book Festival listening to Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow talk about urban foraging and beekeeping. Heading to the Signing Tent afterwards to hunt down Fowler’s book The Thrifty Forager, I serendipitously bumped into designer friends Mark and Gieun, who set me up with the foragersfriend app, links to Dunne & Raby’s design project on foraging, and a chocolate and cardamom cupcake from the Book Signing Café Bar.

I feel a bit mean here focussing almost entirely on Alys Fowler’s half of the event, because Steve Benbow’s work is just as inspiring and he’s a similarly engaging speaker. Both authors have so much enthusiasm, energy, and motivation to communicate what they’re doing that it’s difficult to capture it in writing. Nonetheless, if I gave equal space to both writers here this post would expand to morbidly obese proportions, and foraging is more immediately applicable to my life than beekeeping. So, I urge you to check out Benbow’s London Honey Company to find out more about his beehives on London rooftops.

Three years ago, gardener-foodie-journalist Alys Fowler decided to stop buying produce that grows in the UK, and start gathering it herself instead. In practice this has meant only forking out cash for citrus fruit, and foraging a startling array of leafy greens and berries around her local area in Birmingham. She’s especially passionate about city foraging (not just for rural types, in other words), and took Wednesday’s audience through a rapid-fire illustrated menu of plants gathered everywhere from Curry’s car park to Regent’s Canal in London. Use lime leaves in your sandwiches in place of lettuce; dry the lime-flowers for a couple of days and you have Proust’s favourite linden tea, guaranteed to send you to sleep. Keep your eyes open for hedge garlic (tastes of mustard, then garlic); thistles (eat raw or cooked); nettles (2 minutes only in soup); clove root (repels moths); chickweed; wild rocket; lemon balm; field poppies; fennel… the list goes on. It was a presentation crammed with kitchen tips, nutritional titbits, and foraging anecdotes, from how to avoid dog pee, to why wild greens wilt within 2 hours of picking (they’re high in omega 3s and 6s, which have been bred out of commercial salad leaves). The Thrifty Forager (the only book I bought at this year’s festival) is the same: a forager’s manual jam-packed with recipes, pictures, tips, and advice, clearly structured and beautifully presented.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The evolving world of epigenetics - 18 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Chris Berry

Our understanding of life sciences has progressed apace during the last couple of decades.  From the development of mammalian cloning technology that brought us Dolly the Sheep, to the decoding of the human genome, we have made significant advances in genomics. This expansion of our knowledge has resulted in the development of new techniques that potentially could benefit humankind in a number of areas.  Yet just when we begin to think we might soon be masters of the genomic universe, a new kid on the (genetic) block has emerged, which may have considerable implications for both life sciences and society in general.

This relatively new science of epigenetics was the focus of a fascinating event – The Epigenetic Evolution – which took place at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 18 August.  Featuring a panel comprising biological, medical and social scientists – and expertly chaired by Richard Holloway – it fell on the shoulders of Nessa Carey – leading industrial life scientist, and author of The Epigenetic Revolution – to explain to the capacity audience exactly what epigenetics entails.

The key clue, Nessa explained, is in the “epi” part of the phenomenon’s name, which is derived from the Greek for “on”, or “in addition to”, meaning that epigenetics refers to traits or expressions within organisms that cannot be explained simply as being derived from the genetic code.  There must be other factors acting in addition to the DNA.

Science fiction, double feature ... - Jennifer Rohn & Neal Stephenson, 18 August 2012

Ken MacLeod at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012

A sunny Saturday afternoon (18 August, 5-6 pm) saw the Scottish Power Theatre tent filled almost to capacity for the Wellcome Trust Event 'Putting the Cult into Culture', a discussion on science fiction and science in fiction. Chaired by Forum Writer in Residence, Pippa Goldschmidt, the discussion featured best-selling SF writer and tech guru Neal Stephenson, with cell biologist, novelist and LabLit editor Jennifer Rohn.

Rohn began by explaining that lab lit, as distinct from science fiction, is fiction about scientists and scientific practice in the real world, historical or present-day, rather than in imagined or future worlds. The number of novels that fit this description is suprisingly small - she knew of about 120 in English, which is not a lot to show for the four centuries (more or less) in which science and the novel have flourished in the English-speaking world.

Scientists, she went on, are 'not trusted messengers'. Their views on controversial topics, even within their own specialty, are seen as just their opinion. By showing scientists as human beings, and showing their daily work realistically, lab lit could help to overcome popular suspicion and incomprehension of what scientists are up to. It could also, of course, be of value and enjoyment to scientists and science students to see their world and way of life reflected in literature, and these are among lab lit's most avid readers.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

History with a big P or a small p? Joanna Bourke & Roger Osborne, 16 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Christine Knight 

Joanna Bourke and Roger Osborne’s Book Festival session explored the authors’ complementary histories of the human condition: Bourke’s history of how the boundaries of ‘human-ness’ have been defined since the eighteenth century (What it Means to be Human), and Osborne’s longer-term history of democracy (Of the People, By the People) – political history and Political history, respectively.

Professor Bourke opened proceedings with the tale of finding a letter during her archival research, written in 1872 by ‘An Earnest Englishwoman’ and entitled ‘Are women animals?’. As its author pointed out, women’s legal worth at the time was less than that of animals. In two court cases, men had received sentences of only a few months’ hard labour for murdering or severely assaulting a woman. Yet a man convicted of assault and theft against another man received a seven-year sentence and forty lashes. The letter argued that there was something wrong with a society that could produce such verdicts. Forget suffrage, the letter’s author suggested. Could women be deemed animals in law at the very least, to provide some guarantee of protection?

Dirty little secrets and the right to write - Sam Bourne, 16 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Christine Knight 

Thursday’s Book Festival session with Sam Bourne (aka Jonathan Freedland) was one I wish I could simply transcribe verbatim – a riveting conversation between Guardian colleagues Freedland and Claire Armitstead about Freedland’s fifth and latest novel. Pantheon tells the true story of a group of 125 children, the daughters and sons of Oxford academics, evacuated to Yale during the Second World War. It’s historical fiction that explores the likely possibility that the motivations for the evacuation were eugenicist – saving the children of Britain’s academic elite as part of ‘a plot to create a master race’ (to quote the Book Festival’s title for the session).

As Freedland eloquently described for Thursday’s audience, the British intellectual establishment of the 1930s and early 1940s was ‘in thrall’ to eugenics. This included well-known left-wing writers, politicians, and public figures, such as George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, and Marie Stopes, whose names in this context may come as a shock to some on the Left today. Freedland has written about this with his journalistic hat on, describing eugenics as ‘the dirty little secret of the British left’ in a piece for the Guardian in August 1997. Unfortunately (or fortunately), its publication date coincided with that of Princess Diana’s death, and Freedland’s exposé has languished in sufficient obscurity to allow for a fictionalised retelling by his alter ego, Sam Bourne, 15 years later.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Crime Fiction on the Dissection Table - Val McDermid and Sue Black, 14 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Hazel McHaffie

A few of my own novels introduce elements of crime, but I'm way out of my depth on such matters. I've been hugely indebted to the police for inside information as to procedure and techniques used in the unravelling of what happened, and the detection and apprehension of the perpetrators of these acts. So I was particularly keen to attend a session with a true expert in forensic anthropology in discussion with an award-winning internationally acclaimed crime writer. Promised to be a winning combination.

Forensic science may be a regular part of our popular culture, thanks to novels, television and films, but developments in the world of pathology and understanding of DNA and related technology proceed apace. Experience in the field leads the scientists on; computerisation speeds the processes up. Weaving today's possibilities into a novel can make it out of date tomorrow. Criminals catch up and learn how to avoid incriminating behaviours too. So how do authors keep up?

I am not my ancestors - Alistair Moffat, 14 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Christine Knight 

I must confess to feeling a wee bit grumpy in today’s Book Festival session on Looking Inside Scotland’s Genes! Alistair Moffat and the Scotland’s DNA team are doing some absolutely fascinating research to create a ‘people’s history’ of Scotland using population genetics, so perhaps the oppressive humidity and long queue played their part in my mood! But as a sociologist, I do have a bone to pick with Moffat – not about his research itself, but about the words he uses to talk about it. One word in particular: identity.

As a sociologist of science and a critic of geneticisation, my hackles (alas!) were up from the moment chair Magnus Linklater told the audience that in the next hour, ‘You are going to discover who you are’. Moffat himself told us his involvement in the Scotland’s DNA project stemmed from his interest in the link between ‘cutting edge science and people’s sense of themselves’, and the project website encourages visitors to ‘Take the first step to discovering your origins and identity’.

Enter Science stage left - Ned Beauman and Nick Harkaway, 14 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Christine Knight

I went along to Ned Beauman and Nick Harkaway’s session Fiction for When You’re Feeling Sinister having not read either of the authors’ books (confession!), but looking forward in particular to hearing about Beauman’s latest, The Teleportation Accident. Part of the novel (as the Book Festival programme informed me) is set in the physics laboratories of Los Angeles in the 1930s, and representations of science in fiction are something I’m especially interested in right now because of my own What Scientists Read project (shameless plug!). This is investigating the influence of literature on scientists, but often brings up the opposite phenomenon – how science and scientists appear in fiction.

Monday, 13 August 2012

DIY-Bio: Empowerment or Anarchy? 13 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Chris Berry

In bedrooms, garages and lock-ups from the USA to Europe and Asia, a new approach to life sciences is taking shape.  Working individually or as collectives, “biohackers” – citizen scientists operating outside the constraints of academic or commercial biology labs – seek to adapt the genetic code of organisms such as bacteria, in order to modify the way these behave. 

Yet what leads people to participate in this DIY-bio movement?  Will it empower amateur biological scientists to make important breakthroughs that will benefit society, or are there dangers and threats associated with such unregulated genetic tinkering?  Or is DIY-bio nothing more than an interesting hobby making only a limited contribution to progressing scientific understanding?

The Moral Limits of the Market - Michael Sandel, 13 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Hazel McHaffie

As I stood in the queue around Charlotte Square waiting to go into the Main Theatre, a young man approached the elderly gentleman in front of me to ask what this session was about. 'Money and greed', came the answer. 'Ah, that's why there's such a big queue,' the young man said, and walked away. The summary was only partly accurate; the discussion was much more finely nuanced than that.

And I use the word 'discussion' advisedly because American political philosopher, Michael Sandel, adopted the same techniques he uses in his now famous course on 'Justice', at Harvard University, a course which he's taught for two decades: a winning combination of facts, case studies, and challenges to provoke active participation. Nearly a thousand students pack the halls of Harvard to listen to him, and there his challenges include questions like: Is torture ever justified? Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? How much is one human life worth?

When the Force really is with you - Frank Close, 13 August 2012

Ken MacLeod at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012

It's not every day you shake hands with someone whose name will be remembered on the starships. On Monday 13 August I did, unexpectedly. Participants in the Edinburgh International Book Festival get to choose up to ten free tickets. One of mine was for Frank Close on his new book The Infinity Puzzle, about the search for the Higgs Boson. I sat down in the packed-out Scottish Power Theatre tent, and saw on the screen that the event was to be chaired by Peter Higgs.

Chaired! By Peter Higgs!

In reality, of course, nothing of the sort took place. The session was introduced by the Festival Director, Nick Barley, who made it very clear how amazing this was. Frank Close outlined the physics, conducted a free-wheeling interview with Professor Higgs, then caught and passed on questions from the audience.

While this was going on I tried to figure out just why the tent was so packed and I was so excited. Like everyone in else in the entire world (obviously) I'd spent the morning of July 4th watching the live feed from the Cern press conference and tweeting madly about it. It was the best Big Science white-knuckle ride until the Curiosity landing last week. But in reality, what I know about physics could be written in biro on the back of my hand, and probably was at some point because I passed the first year physics exam at Glasgow University, albeit on the resit. I stopped believing physics lectures when they got to electricity. That bit about holes moving where electrons could be but aren't? It might as well have been the poetry of Ezra Pound for all the sense I could make of it. Quantum mechanics? Relativity? I know the Standard Model works and I don't doubt for a moment that it's true to a trillion decimal places and explains, as Close said, 'seven percent of everything' (the rest being dark matter and all that) but there I walk by GPS and not by sight.

And, judging by the questions from the floor, I'm far from alone in this. But we were all thrilled to be there and I think I know why. We were in the presence of a man who has deservedly become the icon of understanding this stuff, and who advanced an idea about something so fundamental to the fabric of reality that we have to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang to test it. And just seeing him, right there in the flesh, gives us a sense of connection to that fundamental force, the Higgs field.

The signing tent was mobbed. All copies of The Infinity Puzzle were gone in seconds, or maybe picoseconds. I picked up a copy of Close's earlier paperback, Neutrino, and joined the queue. I sort of babbled when I asked Professor Higgs to add his signature to the author's.

On top of everything else, the man's a gent.

The Pressure to Write - A L Kennedy, 13 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Hazel McHaffie

Some people seem to have a kind of superhuman capacity to be creative: AL Kennedy is one of them. A stand-up comedian, as well as a teacher of creative writing, as well as a writer, she's recently recovered from an illness ('that made my bone marrow disappear'), but still managed to bring out an award-winning novel last year - The Blue Book - and to pen a series of funny but perceptive essays on the challenges facing authors today. An exhausting schedule by any standard.

She has a reputation for writing dark, intense, melancholic stories; she 'doesn't really do happiness', and she 'despises Hollywood endings'. But listening to her, it's hard to reconcile ALK as performer, with ALK as writer. Indeed her answers to the audience border on the superficial and frivolous at times, and don't always do justice to the erudition behind some of the questions. I read some of her essays, 'AL Kennedy on Writing' in the Guardian and marvelled at the brilliant way she has of teasing out the humbug from the reality of life as a writer, and I liked her gritty honesty. Those insights were missing for me in her verbal presentation, the comedian eclipsing the thoughtful analyst.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

How Should a ‘True Scot’ Behave? - Carol Craig, 12 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Pippa Goldschmidt

Nine years ago Carol Craig’s book The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence claimed that Scottish people suffer from a collective lack of self-belief, and that this has a massive effect on our society. Since then – and partly as a result of the maturation of the Scottish Parliament and the SNP’s political success, she’s updated the book and a new edition has been published.

In discussion with Sheena McDonald, Carol Craig used a variety of anecdotes to support her claim, identifying events such as the Reformation triggering a certain type of dour egalitarianism which seeks to bring people down to a common level and stop them ‘getting above themselves’. She’s had conversations with both indigenous Scots and immigrants who lack confidence due to the prevalent feeling that they shouldn’t speak out, or try and effect change.

As she said herself, more academic studies don’t really bear this out, and Scottish people don’t seem to do any worse than other people in the UK and elsewhere when their self-confidence is formally measured. And as people in the audience commented, Scottish people are also noted for their entrepreneurialism and intellectual achievements, citing the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow trade union movement as two examples from a city commonly assumed to suffer more than its fair share of social problems.

A weakness in the argument surely lies in its reduction of the plurality of Scottish culture(s) to serve a single issue which, according to Carol Craig, explains everything from poor educational results to the shocking life expectancy in parts of the country. But if this effect is so important, it can’t be beyond the wit of a social scientist to measure it.

And yet, the collective sigh of recognition by today’s audience when Carol Craig used the phrase ‘I kent his faither’ (Scots for ‘I knew his father’; a general put-down for someone who’s perceived to be getting above their station in life) as a summing up of the attitude she was referring to, indicates that this argument does resonate. Just how uniquely Scottish this resonance is, is another matter.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Fact and fiction on course to the future - Charles Fernyhough and Ben Marcus, 11 August 2012

Genomics Forum blogging team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012
Blog by Pippa Goldschmidt

Some fiction writers are apt to be magpies with science and pick off the shinier bits for use as metaphors to adorn novels that otherwise have little to say explicitly about the subject. And scientists’ activities around communicating their work usually assumes that the science itself will remain unchanged.

But yesterday’s event with Ben Marcus and Charles Fernyhough turned this assumption on its head to consider the influence of fiction on science. In his latest novel ‘The Flame Alphabet’ Ben Marcus makes concrete the power of language to hurt us; children’s language has become toxic to adults who struggle to find an antidote. It’s a metaphor for the inevitable separation between parents and their children, as well as the gap between speech and thought. Charles Fernyhough is an academic psychologist and author who has written both non-fiction as well as fiction. His most recent book ‘Pieces of Light’ is an exploration of the science of memory and his forthcoming novel ‘A Box of Birds’ tests a neuroscientist’s view that her sense of self is only an illusion.

Both speakers talked about the capacity of fiction to put science under the microscope – Charles Fernyhough stated that if neuroscience’s recent theories of how we think and remember aren’t convincing in fictional settings then it should be neuroscience that is found wanting. Ben Marcus views fiction as a way of telling the truth about the world.  This shouldn’t be particularly startling, after all science relies on thought experiments such as Schrodinger’s Cat – experiments which are undoable in the real world and yet which tell us something about how that world operates. Fiction can be seen as a thought experiment – one where the author sets up the initial conditions and the reader creates the outcome. We all do science, every day, when we interact with the world and try and make sense of it. And scientists are influenced by apparently non-scientific thoughts and ideas. See ‘What Scientists Read’ for a neat little experiment about literary influences on science.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Let the (Forum’s) festivities commence!

August, in Edinburgh, is Festival time.  For four weeks the city is alive as it plays host to the world’s biggest arts event, comprising several festivals spanning a plethora of cultural forms.

For the sixth year in succession, the Genomics Forum will be contributing several threads to this rich artistic tapestry as it once again supports and participates in the Edinburgh International Book Festival – one of the world’s largest and most prestigious literary events.

The Forum is delighted to be involved in the production of three events at this year’s Book Festival that will allow both the public and experts to explore the interaction between science and society. 

Proceedings commence on Monday 13 August, when editor of Wired magazine, Ben Hammersley; author of the forthcoming Biohackers, Dr Alessandro Delfanti; and synthetic aesthetics researcher Dr Jane Calvert, will discuss the innovative advances and political and ethical challenges behind the rise of DIY-bio and citizen science, in the event: DIY-Bio: Empowerment or anarchy?, which will be chaired by Forum Writer-in-Residence Dr Pippa Goldschmidt.

On Saturday 18 August attention turns to how our physical and social environment actually influences the way our genetic inheritance is realised, and the implications this potentially has for social policy, when Dr Nessa Carey, author of The Epigenetics Revolution; Dr Paul Shiels, from Glasgow University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences; and Professor Steve Yearley from the Genomics Forum discuss, with Richard Holloway, the implications of The Epigenetic Evolution.

Forum-produced events conclude on Wednesday 22 August when consideration is given to how fiction – and particularly young people’s literature – represents scientists.  In Scientistsin fiction – creative or crazed geniuses? author Sophie McKenzie, who has written about genetics in her Medusa Project and Blood Ties series, is joined by Dr Alistair Elfick, Director of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh and Dr David Kirby, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Manchester, when they debate whether the way in which authors portray scientists within their work reflects the collective fears and insecurities of society.  

The Genomics Forum’s involvement with this year’s Book Festival is not merely confined to the three engaging and informative events detailed above, however.   Forum Writers-in-Residence Pippa Goldschmidt and Ken MacLeod will also be appearing in their own science-themed events.  Pippa will be hosting a writing workshop on Monday 27 August, entitled Science and Literature: Separated by a Common Language?; and Ken will be a panellist in a session, also taking place on Monday 27 August, that will consider Scary Futuristic Fictions.  Genomics Forum Director, Professor Steve Yearley, will make his second appearance at the Book Festival, again on Monday 27 August, when he chairs a discussion with science writer Lone Frank about the issues explored in her book My Beautiful Genome, in an event entitled Letting the Genome Out of the Bottle.

And as if the above Book Festival interaction were not expansive enough, the Genomics Forum will once again this year be blogging on a number of scientifically, socially and ethically relevant events.  So be sure to check Genotype regularly during August for updates from our blogging team of Christine Knight, Pippa Goldschmidt, and Hazel McHaffie.

This August, the Genomics Forum will certainly be playing its part in making the world’s biggest arts Festival engaging, informative and fun. The Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place at Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh, from 11 to 27 August 2012.