DIY Biolabs – and why they matter

Published in Protocols & Methods

When proponents of Do-it-yourself Biology  explain their motivation for getting involved in the movement  they often resort to colorful imagery. Take for example Patrick D’haeseleer who helps organize the Counter Culture Labs in the San Francisco Bay Area. He asks, “When the first village tamed fire, the neighboring village was freaking out. Should only the village elders be allowed to make fire or should we teach everybody?”  “Any new technology has risk, but it behooves us to have all citizens know how these technologies work and what the risks are. “ he continues, “ the technology needs to be democratized because it will dominate the 21th century.”

In our September editorial we encouraged people to look up  DIY Biolabs in their backyard and consider getting involved.

A recent editorial in Nature  also addresses the topic of Citizen scientists, focusing on sample collection and data analysis.  The authors raise the question how conflict of interest should be addressed and recommend full transparency about motives and ambitions of citizen scientists.

We agree that it is important to be upfront about one’s involvement in scientific endeavors, but motives conflicting with those of established scientists need not preclude participation in the scientific process.  As people learn more about methods and their potential,  they may change their position on certain issues, or, if not, they will  have a better grounded basis for what they belief.  Either outcome is a success.

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