Gene drives and metaphors

B. Nerlich,  Making Science Public,  2022.

I have been writing about developments in the biosciences for twenty years. In that time, I have covered a wide variety of topics, such as cloning, genomics, the human genome project, the microbiome project, faecal microbial transplants, synthetic biology, epigenetics, genome editing and now gene drive. I was lucky enough to get many reflections on these topics (by me and other colleagues!) published in the appropriately titled journal New Genetics and Society. The newest addition to this family of articles is one on gene drives – a range of controversial technologies that can potentially be used for the eradication or conservation of animal species – written with Aleksandra Stelmach. It has a certain family resemblance with the other articles, as it too deals with the use of metaphor in framing a particular issue in the biosciences. However, it is also quite different. While the other articles mainly examined media articles on the genetic or genomic topics they covered, this article is based on the analysis of interviews with gene drive experts and practitioners reflecting on their and others’ uses of metaphors. The article was prompted by emerging findings from a Wellcome Trust funded project, led by Sarah Hartley, aiming to increase understanding of how people communicate about gene drives. Aleksandra carried out 30 interviews with scientists, experts, and NGOs working in sectors or being involved in sectors relating to gene drive research in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

More related to this:

Gene drive communication: exploring experts’ lived experience of metaphor use

Genetic Engineering Technology Promises To Sterilize Disease-Spreading Mosquito Populations