Last week, a diverse group of stakeholders attended CRISPRcon Midwest, hosted by the Keystone Policy Center and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The goal of the day-long conference was to emphasize the importance and value of gene editing technology, and how it must be communicated deliberately between scientists, the public, policymakers, and other stakeholders.
Julie Shapiro, Senior Policy Director of Keystone Policy Center, acted as Emcee for the event. Given the diverse group of attendees, she mentioned in her opening remarks that the event organizers were “seeking conversation, not consensus” and emphasized the “power of respectful dialogue.” A slide overhead showcased the ground rules for the day, which included statements such as “dare to listen, dare to share, and dare to disagree.”
CRISPRcon aimed to included voices beyond those represented by keynote speakers and panelists, so they incorporated live polling through an online app to keep the audience engaged and an active participant in the conversations throughout the day. From the opening remarks, it was clear that this conference would not just deliver on its promise of thoughtful conversation about the science, but build further understanding about the societal impacts of a rapidly advancing technology.
The BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute) has been a member of the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) since 2002. As an educational arm of NASA, the mission of WSGC “is to use the excitement and vision of space and aerospace science to equip the citizens of Wisconsin with the math, science and technology tools they need to thrive in the 21st century.”
Also as noted on WSGC’s website, “The mission of NASA’s Space Grant Program is to contribute to the nation’s science enterprise by funding education, research, and informal education projects through a national network of university-based Space Grant consortia.” Members of these consortia include academic institutions, government agencies, businesses and other educational organizations, such as the BTC Institute.
Of particular relevance to the WSGC/BTC Institute partnership, Space Grant Program goals include working to:
Recruit and train professionals, especially women, and underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities, for careers in aerospace related fields.
Develop a strong science, mathematics, and technology education base from elementary through university levels.
This year, 2016, included the participation of two Hannam students, Pureum Jeon and Hajeong Sim, in one of our advanced courses, Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering (CTPGE), which offers graduate credits through the University of Wisconsin-Madison.UW-Madison is a bustling campus with a large international student, staff and faculty population, and Promega Corporation is a global company with a diverse workforce that brings a steady stream of international visitors to its main campus in Fitchburg. My sense is that sometimes those of us who live and work in environments like this, who also regularly tap into global news, can lose touch with what it’s like to leave home and travel to a completely new place, perhaps somewhere far away where the language spoken is not your own.
Our experience with Pureum and Hajeong this summer was a reminder of how important these experiences can be for those who make these journeys. Their participation in the course provided them with valuable training, but the small things, like walking around the UW campus, having dinner with one of us, driving through rural Wisconsin and feeling welcomed at the hotel, also meant so much.