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“Societal Debates About Emerging Genetic Technologies: Toward a Science of Public Engagement”

Presented by Dominique Brossard. Researched in collaboration with Dr. Dietram Scheufele and Chris Wirz.

Gene editing is an inherently wicked problem with no single right answer and no group uniquely positioned to decide this answer. We discuss the intricacies of the debates surrounding both plant and human applications of gene editing. Specifically, we demonstrate how one technology has developed into two separate context-driven debates within the scientific community with seemingly contradictory perspectives of ideal outcomes. Resolving these debates require a culture of civic science that focuses on early and ongoing engagement with different publics that is not just done on science’s terms. We provide recommendations for how both bench and social scientists should approach these issues moving forward. We also give a brief review of the research and commentaries included in the special issue of Environmental Communication on gene editing.


Dominique Brossard is professor and chair in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her teaching responsibilities include courses in strategic communication theory and research, with a focus on science and risk communication.

Dr. Brossard’s research program focuses on the intersection between science, media and policy. She studies the public opinion dynamics in the context of controversial scientific innovations, such as biotechnology, stem cell research, nanotechnology and nuclear energy. Dr. Brossard is particularly interested in understanding the role of values in shaping public attitudes, and in cross-cultural analysis of these processes, with a special emphasis on the online environment.