iGEM is an international competition for the genetically engineered machine (iGEM), a competition in synthetic biology. Every year almost 300 teams participate with inventions ranging from rapid diagnostics to bioremediation or energy production. All teams are composed of students, from high-school to post-graduate levels.
The iGEMer’s Guide to the Future is an interactive web-based tool that supports iGEM teams in their integrated human practices work and to do responsible research and innovation. It’s the result of a four-year collaboration with iGEM teams and supports them in making their innovation sensitive to their contexts. The Guide creates a space and a process to think about synthetic biology in its context. It contains a variety of tools and activities that aim to gather knowledge and integrate it into in their innovation process and design. This allows to underline not only what genetic engineering can deliver to improve our societies but also under what conditions these innovations can help.
The Guide takes you through a series of steps, tools, and sources, that you can use when exploring how your project would work in the real world. It allows your team to ask questions such as: How will my application work out practically: for users, society, in the context of businesses, and in terms of regulation? What are the possible futures for my application? What can my team learn from exploring the future? This Guide can be of use for any project, and you can start using it (almost) at any time during the competition. You can use this guide and follow all the steps, or use parts of it. All the tools are meant to inspire you and your team. Results of the activities you carry out can also be used to create a meaningful outreach program.
Here are examples of what the tools can do:
- exploring which stakeholders to invite for an interview or discussion evening;
- creating material to be used for all kinds of outreach events;
- finding a storyline for the wiki page or jamboree presentation;
- adjusting the project to real-world circumstances;
- speculating about the future;
- changes in design of the project.