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I:DNA Engagement Activities

Engagement with the public was the reason for creating I:DNA and has been fundamental throughout its creation, development, and tour. Although the I:DNA tour has ended, our hope is that the resources we developed will continue to be used for teaching and engagement.

With WIE, we have created a detailed I:DNA case study based on our experiences, to help others who may be thinking of creating a similar engagement activity. We are also happy to talk with anyone who has any questions about our experiences (contact us).


During the tour I:DNA was incorporated into the IATL module ‘Genetics and Society’. Students visited I:DNA at Millennium Point where they heard a talk from Felicity on the research and I:DNA’s role and purpose. Esther and Felicity also gave a talk to Nottingham’s Maternity Research group about I:DNA and how art and research can be successfully combined to engage the public in research.

Despite the tour ending, we have continued to use our online I:DNA resources for teaching within the University and beyond.

The sculpture (with links to the video/soundscape via the webpage) is currently situated in a prominent position in a multi-disciplinary teaching and research building (IBRB), where it will continue to act as a physical stimulus to prompt discussion and learning around the topic of genetics.

The local primary school we visited for the craft workshop has also continued to utilise the genetics teaching resources we developed. The geneticists talk can also be found in our resources where is can be used by other schools.

We are very happy to discuss any teaching opportunities related to I:DNA and our resources (contact us)

Public engagement as a research method

Public engagement can be used not only to stimulate dialogue with public audiences, but also to feed directly into research processes. I:DNA provided an interface between the research team and the public, creating a springboard for discussions on a topic that may otherwise be difficult to engage with given the public’s lack of experience with genetic medicine.

It also provided access to members of the public who were interested in taking part in research. Research that relies on voluntary participation is always subject to sampling bias, however, the I:DNA installation opened a unique gateway to members of the public who would not otherwise agree to participate in research projects, and/or may have found the topic hard to engage with if presented in a participant information leaflet. Feedback from (and dialogue with) public audiences can be a useful tool in the conceptual development of future research agendas and priorities.

Using public engagement activities to find research participants has limitations as the sole method of participant recruitment because it will also be subject to bias. It is also important to be aware that interviews for public engagement evaluations do not require ethical approvals, but these are required for research interviews.

Evaluation of public engagement

Evaluation of public engagement is an expanding area of research in itself and was the topic of a paper we wrote in response to touring I:DNA.

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