Exploring the relationship between public knowledge and attitudes about genomics
Author: Rebecca Carver
Whilst research over the past fifty years has shown there is a link between knowledge and attitudes in science in general, there is little consensus as to whether more knowledge in science leads to more positive or negative attitudes. Previous polls about public understanding of genetics reveal a variety of trends; some have shown that people with higher levels of understanding about genetics also have more opposition towards genetic technologies, whereas other studies showed no relationship between genetic understanding and attitude (Condit 2001). Very little is known about how knowledge and attitudes interact in the realm of genomics. Genomics adopts a more systemic understanding of genetics than earlier genetics, taking into account that environmental and epigenetic factors play a more important role in the development of traits and diseases (Moore 2013; Kendler 2005). Genomic-based technologies such as gene therapy, prenatal genetic testing, personalized medicine and pharmacogenomics are starting to become more relevant for people’s lives. The key questions that shall be addressed in this paper are: 1.How much does the general public know about “modern” concepts and principles within genomics, such as the genome, gene expression, and epigenetics? 2.Is higher knowledge about genomics related to more positive or negative attitudes towards genomic-based technologies? To answer these questions, I will present key finding from the “Public Understanding of Genetics and Genomics Project” (PUGGS project), which is a questionnaire study investigating three components: belief in genetic determinism, knowledge of modern genetics, and attitudes towards modern genomic-based technologies. The project is based in Brazil, where the questionnaire has been developed, piloted and applied to over 400 students at the Federal University of Bahia. The data for this paper was collected in March 2015 and the results will be presented at the conference. Proposed session: ‘Trends in public communication of science and technology’.