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‘).