Public Survey

The team decided early on that research alone was not enough! To determine how well DIYbio has been / will be received, we felt that a survey would be one great way to find out. We set about creating two surveys, one for the general public, and one for the DIYbio community.

The aim of the public survey was to determine the general reaction to citizen experimentation, and after a brief introduction to DIYbio, their first impressions about the potential and dangers of DIYbio. By finding out, we were confident we could determine the probable overall attitude towards to DIYbio.

The aim of the second survey, targeted specifically at the DIYbio community, was to determine the motivations of DIYbiologists, the things they perceive as barriers to entry, the limitations and their priorities when conducting experiments. With these data, we intended to collate the commitment and responsibility level of DIYbiologists to their hobby, and their immediate society.

However, as of 15 Oct, our second survey has not had more than at least 50 respondents, so we feel it would be unnecessary to analyze such inconclusive numbers.

Public survey analysis

As of 15th Oct, we had 516 respondents for our public survey, and we have analyzed (and cross-analyzed) the data. The following are the statistics and our interpretations.

Personal Details

1. What is your email?

Rationale : We asked this so that we could filter out repeated entries or contact our survey respondents if some of their answers for open-ended questions were ambiguous.

2. Which age group do you belong to?


Due to the survey being conducted online, even after viral advertising of the survey visa email, Facebook etc, we were only able to capture a majority within the same age-group as us. This is the reason for the large excess of 17-25 year olds who have completed this survey.

However, we believe this may be a feature, not a bug! DIYBio is a recent phenomenon, and the people who are likely to have the most to gain or lose by engaging in it are those within the 17-25 age group. So this particular set of results may give us an insight into the attitude of the most relevant population towards DIYBio.

3. Which country do your currently reside in?

Respondents were given a list of all the countries of the world.

China - 29
France - 1
Germany - 1
India - 2
Indonesia - 3
Jordan - 1
South Korea - 1
Malaysia - 38
Maldives - 1
Netherlands - 5
Russia - 1
Singapore - 390
United States - 26
Vietnam - 1
Spain - 11
United Kingdom - 5

From this data, we hope to correlate interest level of DIYBio with the relative technological prowess of the host country. The majority of our responses came from Singapore (390), Malaysia (38), China (29) and US (26) out of a total of 516 responses. A visual representation seems unnecessary.

As much as we would have preferred to a more globally diverse response pool, these results were expected, and we have to concede that any conclusions would apply most to Singapore, and less to the world.

Education & Background

4. What is your highest education level?

5. What did you major in?


Here, we see that the vast majority of the respondents are undergraduates (79%), with up to 92% of the respondents from vocational schools and above.

Within this 92% who have at least attended institutes of higher learning, we have 91% pursuing either engineering or science-related majors.


This increases our expectation that the majority of our respondents are people who would be comfortable with the technical details regarding DIYBio.

This information is important to assess the validity of the survey because we expect the answers to be the result of informed decisions, not random picking. This data also tells us that about 83% (0.92 * 0.91 * 100%) are technically capable of picking up DIYBio skills without too much trouble.

Opinions on citizen experimentation

6. Which of these places do you normally associate biological experiments (e.g. cloning, DNA extraction) with?

Respondents could choose more than one option, so a pie chart will not be relevant to show data.


Here we are trying to see what the respondents consider to be acceptable locations for conducting bio-technological experiments. We find that most people associate experiments with the traditional locations like dedicated research labs in Universities, research institutes and biotech R&D companies.

Due to the extremely low number of respondents voting for non-traditional locations like kitchen, garages and others, less than 1% of the total votes for this question, we can arrive at the conclusion that most people find it unthinkable to conduct experiments in such places.

7. Do you think that biological experiments such as DNA extraction and cloning, can be done without a proper lab?


From this data we observe that the population is roughly divided equally on this question.

While the majority got the right answer (51% said yes), it is significant that the percentage of the population who did not say yes is also close to 50%.

We conclude that almost half the population does not know, or does not correctly know the techniques and concepts behind such experiments, thus causing them to reply incorrectly.

8. What would you feel if you know that someone in your neighbourhood is conducting biological experiments in his\her home?


Again the population seems to be divided equally on this issue. While it is comforting to know that roughly half the population is curious and interested about DIYBio, we also notice the rest are bordering from apathetic to outright terrified.

Of interest were some of the keywords under the "Others" option:

They included angry, envious, strange, worried & cautious.

Introduction to DIYbio

9. Have you heard of “Do-It-Yourself Biology” (DIY bio) before?


Yes - 57

No - 459

(Singapore only)

Yes - 38

No - 353

In this question we find that 12.4% of the total population has come across DIYBio before.

Just to make sure the data from respondents in Singapore alone isn’t clouding the actual numbers, we ran the statistics and found that 10.8% of Singaporeans have come across DIYBio as well.

This percentage is not a significant deviation from the global results, and so we can safely infer that the overwhelming number of Singapore-based respondents does not dilute this result in any way.

10. If yes, how did your hear about DIYbio?

Written media - 24

Broadcast media - 12

Internet - 45

Word-of-mouth - 23

Others - 11

We find that the internet is clearly the most popular source (45 out of 57 chose the Internet).

At this juncture, we proceed to introduce DIYbio in a few lines for the benefit of those who have not heard of it before. We structured the passage so that there would be no apparent or implied bias.

DIY bio is a new movement where people interested in performing complex biological experiments like DNA cloning and extraction, come together and do so in non-laboratory conditions. They use common household items, sometimes in the comfort of their own homes, to carry out these experiments and share their progress details online.

Q11. What is your opinion towards DIYbio?



Potentially good - 341

Potentially bad - 554

Here we see that the attitude towards DIYBio is overwhelmingly negative and this was actually unexpected from a population with 83% technically trained in science, technology and engineering at higher levels.

We observe that the top concern against DIYBio is the safety & security issue, followed closely with the fear of DIYBio techniques being misused.

As a rough measure, we analyze the attitude towards the potential of DIYBio by adding up the gross number of votes for the positive responses and comparing these to the number of negative responses. We take the responses to options b and f as negative response and the answers to options c and e as positive response. We find that overall, there are more votes against DIYBio’s potential than for, and again this is quite surprising to us.

Of interest were the opinions entered under Others:

  • Seems like no reliable results can be obtained. Results may not be credible or reproducible.
  • Would need proper regulating laws. Handling special chemicals or organisms must require special conditions before experimentation is allowed. Preferably with supervision.
  • In small places/countries, risk factor due to accidents increase. Risk of contaminations is high.
  • Costs must be justifiable. What is the need for non-bio people to do DIYBio experiments? Against God's will.
  • DIYbio can promote awareness of biology. May push forward scientific/technological progress.

Attitude towards DIYbio

12. DIYbio should be banned.


An overwhelming majority have no opinion on this matter, which could mean that they are reserving judgement for now. Among the rest, 37% think DIYBio should not be banned, almost twice as many who feel it should be.

13. DIYBio may pave the way to real world applications.


These results are very positive, as a clear majority (52%) believe that DIYBio may yet prove to be practical and useful over a mere 16% who think it will never be of any use. Again there is a large percentage who are neutral on this matter.

It is definitely not surprising that a majority of those who voted in favor of DIYBio’s potential in this question happened to be the ones who voted for DIYBio to not be banned. The neutral parties for the previous question largely tended to be neutral in this matter as well, with a scant few taking sides.

Similarly, everyone who voted strongly that DIYBio should be banned were either neutral or felt DIYBio has no potential.

14. DIY bio is highly likely to be misused (e.g. bioterrorism).


The majority clearly agree that there is great potential for the misuse of DIYBio, a staggering 67%, and another 23% remaining neutral.

It is noted here that the vast majority of those who were neutral with regards to banning DIYBio agreed that DIYBio was ripe for misuse.

From these, we can infer that public perception towards DIYBio is always tinged with caution.

15. DIY bio may help humanity discover the cure for major diseases.


Interestingly, the percentage of those who generally agreed that DIYBio has medical potential (37%) is evenly matched with those who don’t believe so (31%).

What is interesting here is that a vast majority (almost 60%) of those who agreed that DIYBio may have practical applications disagreed that it could produce medical breakthroughs.

We believe their picture about the uses of synthetic biology breakthroughs are more industry-friendly but not safe enough to be used in health-related applications.

16. Accidents in DIY bio are inevitable, and may cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage.


An overwhelming 69% believe that DIYBio may lead to severe biological accidents versus a scant 8% who are a bit more optimistic.

Not surprisingly the vast majority who voted that DIYBio had immense potential for misuse also voted that DIYBio may be accident-prone. Upon further analysis, we find that while people who said they had not heard of DIYBio before tended to be pessimistic about accidents, even the majority of those who had heard of DIYBio before were pessimistic as well.

This indicates a very consistent generally negative attitude towards DIYBio.

17. DIY bio will help to attract more people to engage in scientific research.


Given the overall negativity from previous questions, it is surprising here that the vast majority (61%) believes that DIYBio will help attract more people to scientific research.

These are the most surprising results because the majority of people who agreed to this statement happened to vote that DIYBio is very accident-prone.

DIYbio in everyday life

18. Are you a DIYbiologist?

This question is asked in case the survey yielded overwhelmingly positive results just because there was a significant population of DIYbiologists among the respondents.

There was a bare minimum of DIYbiologists among the respondents; more than 99% of respondents were not practising DIYbiologists.

We see this as a good sign that our survey is not affected by biased results.

19. What are/were the projects that you are/were involved?

Due to the extremely small number of DIYbiologists among our respondent pool, there is nothing conclusive we can determine from this data.

20. If money were not an issue, how likely are you to pick up DIYbio as a hobby?


This data is the most surprising. We had trouble making sense of this: a large proportion (44%) have expressed interest in picking up DIYbio and a slightly smaller percentage of the respondents (29%) are against ever pursuing it.

The remaining 26% can be said to be neutral on this matter, which indicates they are still willing to consider DIYbio if factors other than money are also favourable.

So, a grand total of 70% of the respondents are ultimately open, if not enthusiastic about DIYbio.

On its own, this data is encouraging because DIYbio as a community can only grow sustainably if the majority of the society around DIYbiologists are also open to pursuing DIYbio. This extra manpower, and exponentially larger mind-power could in turn bring about some of the positive benefits of DIYbio.

However this data is totally out of character considering the majority of the same population had just previously had expressed concern about the safety aspects, potential for misuse and accident rates of DIYbio.

So, we are unable to conclude at this juncture whether our sample population ultimately votes in favour of or against DIYbio.


It is seen that the vast majority have not heard of DIYBio. Since it is common that people will instinctively fear what they don’t know, DIYBiologists must take great efforts to publicise the work and practice of their chosen hobby.
 The internet seems to be the medium of choice for DIYBio information, so biohackers should capitalise on this and get the good word out about DIYBio.

At the very least, the public should be aware of the extent, scope and intent of DIYBiologists so that they will not misunderstand any aspect of DIYBio. Also with a more public face given to DIYBio, members of the public will have less doubts about the potential of DIYBio, and DIYBio-ers will feel an increased sense of responsibility towards practising their hobby safely without harming the community.

Throughout the course of the survey analysis, we tackle the issue of safety and security, be it the risk of accidents or the potential for misuse.
 DIYBio will do well to make a standard of regulations for itself, perhaps a checklist for all hobbyists to rate themselves as an internal community quality check. For example, a checklist can include an inventory list, datasheets and minimum safety protocol to be satisified before working with a particular bacterial sample.
 Such a system will not only increase the quality and competence of DIYbiologists, but also the confidence level the public has on DIYbio as a whole.

With regards to contamination issues, again DIYbiologists must abide by a strict code of personal ethics so as to take every precaution and every measure to avoid such incidents. For example, carelessly disposing of transformed bacteria with antiobiotic resistance may increase the occurrence of wild strains with antibiotic resistance. Such scenarios cannot be allowed to happen. One solution is to have a DIYBio chapters register as organisations so that their activities will become more regulated, and their inventory and actions can be tracked and monitored.

This will definitely help to minimise possibility of misuse, and if there are such incidents, they can be tracked to finger out the perpetrators. In general the DIYBio community must make sure to share protocols especially those pertaining to safety and contamination, to reduce the risk of contamination of public resources.

In these ways, DIYbio can alleviate some of the concerns and tension that the public seem to have towards DIYbio.

Special Thanks

The team would like to thank all respondents for taking time out to do our survey! It is regrettable however, that we were unable to get a critical number of entries for the other survey we prepared specially for the DIYbio community. Having that data would have been interesting to analyze in relation to this survey.

NTU@iGEMcc 2009. Some rights reserved.