Junk or not Junk? How to Recycle the Public Aesthetic of DNA

How to Recycle the Public Aesthetic of DNA.  

One of the challenges of science communication is conveying the fact that science is not static; findings are cumulative and even the firmest paradigms are malleable with new evidence/insight. Humans generally -and certainly ‘the public’ as a cohesive body- want laws, rules and absolutes. In this project I am interested in exploring how shifts in our understanding of the genome and its repetitive, noncoding component has changed over recent decades. Over half of our genome is transposons – repetitive DNA (once called “junk” DNA) – yet much of it now seems to have function? We have a minuscule amount of DNA compared to a paramecium or lungfish, and at least 8,000 fewer genes than a water flea. How does this information affect the public’s image/aesthetic of DNA? Genomes have been described disparately as ‘genomic burdens’, ‘tool kits’, and ‘attic spaces’. How has creative analogy helped or hinder flexibility in science communication about DNA?

  • potential collaborator at U Guelph, Canada

In  previous genetic research I studied the extraordinarily large genome of the Australian Lungfish (see also critiques of characterisations of ‘living fossils‘).