1 August 2011

Word Selection Crucial to Synbio

Do you ‘create’ or ‘construct’ when doing synthetic biology? The difference may not matter to the science itself, but when it comes to communicating outside the scientific environment, the distinction is relevant.

This has been shown in a new study, recently published in Journal of Biological Engineering.

In a controlled experiment based on 100 informants who were randomly presented with introductions to synthetic biology using either ‘create’ or ‘construct’ as framing tool, Pearsson et al. (2011) found that the participants perceived synthetic biology more negatively when ‘create’ was used to describe the field compared to ‘construct’ (p = 0,008).

The result therefore suggests that choice of words in connection with synthetic biology does have an affect on how the general public perceives it.

Taking into account that synthetic biology is a young discipline that has a unique opportunity to influence its public perception, the authors point out that investigators might consider using the term ‘construct’ instead of ‘create’ when describing their work.

Reference: Pearsson, B. et al. (2011):”Word Selection Affects the Perceptions of Synthetic Biology”. Journal of Biological Engineering 2011, 5:9. Online version: http://www.jbioleng.org/content/5/1/9/abstract