The main group, DIYBio.org – is an organisation of more than 2000 members across 30 countries, with most of their equipment being simple and easily mistaken for kitchen utensils, while others have put in place advanced community laboratories. They have multiple interests and goals, including biosecurity, developing diagnostic utilities, and even scientific-art, investing specifically in the field of bio-art, which include genetically modified organisms. However, all of this is not without risk, even though they adhere to a clearly defined ethical code, and follow certain community standards (for the elimination of potentially dangerous bio-waste for example).
Amateurs dabbling in science, experimenting, trying out new things, creating new knowledge, and diffusing it simply – why not? Is this just a new fad? In a way it can be related to patients looking for an online diagnosis – a tendency which goes hand in hand with the fact that there are epidemiological studies which demand community participation and use the resources of social networks for a more efficient online check-up.
What is going to be the result of this new approach? What are the motivations at stake? As reported in a posthumous fictional interview of Einstein: “To invent is to think differently”.2 Perhaps these practices could open up a field and facilitate future scientific discoveries, which would have evolved in kitchens and garages, and go on to reduce prices and increase access to certain seemingly expensive techniques today. But one can also ask what are going to be the risks of all this? Science has become a source of power and belief to such an extent that everyone wants to appropriate it. It isn’t difficult to imagine a crackpot trying to clone a rabbit in his washroom …or worse.
Editorial, Nature Methods 12(9), 2015 Seyfried et al., Bioessays. 36(6), 2014
Translated by Arunava Banerjee
1 Essaim, the French word, implicates the equivoque of ♣️ Trèfle noir, and a pluralization of the Nom du Père, as a swarm of signifiers.