About DIYbio

DIYbio is a relatively new community of a new generation of biologists. By making biotechnological knowledge & techniques, like synthetic biology, open and accessible, DIYbio seeks to attract citizen scientists and amateur biologists, empower them with knowledge and skills while reinforcing the safety and ethical issues involved.

It is anticipated that the diverse backgrounds of budding DIYbiologists will bring a multidisciplinary approach to the table. By allowing them access to literature, experts and other resources, there is a lot of potential for innovative ideas like Bio weather map and practical projects like cheaper hardware!

DIYbio also aims to be an "Institution for the Amateur", simultaneously connecting interested DIYbiologists while functioning as an interface between the budding scientists and the community at large.

Why DIYbio?

Science has always been driven by Man’s innate curiosity to understand the why-s, and master the how-s of nature. Some of the most divergent and unique fields of scientific research have come about when daring scientists worked on novel methods with little/no precedent.

With the Internet, scientists can now share information and data quickly and easily. Geographic and linguistic limitations are things of the past. Previously a novel idea which could not gain enough support locally would have been abandoned. Thanks to the Internet, finding interested parties to collaborate with is so much easier now, more than ever before. In fact, concepts like Open Science have gained good support only because of the feasibility made possible by the Internet.

One example of Open Science at work is OpenWetWare, where scientists are encouraged to share their research methods, approach and data. This manner of sharing and collaborating, allows scientists to solve problems faster and optimise solutions in an easier manner.

As you can see, the Open Science attitude is very similar to the Open Source way of doing things. And just like there are forks in Open Source code development, there are splinter groups in Open Science that start working on tangential experiments using techniques derived from formal experimental protocol.

DIYBio happens to be one such field, a splinter cousin of genetic engineering & synthetic biology. It is an exciting community that is still growing and has a lot of potential.

We believe that DIYbio, as an issue, is directly relevant to any discussion about the boundaries of science and society. The two sides of the DIYbio coin are empowerment and freedom for citizen scientists versus the dangers of malicious or accidental biological accidents & other ethical issues. While the lack of structure and regulation definitely help to spur the creative streak, we also cannot deny that there are advantages in the rigidity of scientific regulation.

It will be interesting to analyse both sides because the arguments for either side have their own merits. This is why the NTU iGEM’09 team has chosen to consider DIYbio as a Human Practices Advance study.

Research Proposal

We want to analyse if DIYBio can be seen as a branch of science with real-world potential, or would it always remain a hobbyist interest group.

We also wish to research on the safety and security concerns associated with synthetic biology (eg proper disposal of bacteria with antibiotic resistance, proper biohazard waste disposal etc) to see if DIYBiologists can be entrusted with this important responsiblity. This is especially relevant because there is no official body to regulate/enforce regulations on the DIYbio community.

And finally, we would like to gather public opinions on their attitude towards DIYBio, both from the perspective of DIYBiologists and the general public.

We plan to achieve these by:

  • Researching the history of DIYBio
  • Interviewing prominent DIYBiologists and
  • Conducting surveys targeted at both the general public and a group of international DIYBiologists

We believe that these methods will be a comprehensive way to achieve our research goals.

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