Science and Technology Innovation Program

Seven Myths and Realities about Do-It-Yourself Biology

By
Daniel Grushkin, Todd Kuiken, Ph.D., and Dr. Piers Millet

As the do-it-yourself biology (DIYbio) community has grown, so have concerns about the ability of these amateur scientists to wield DNA and manipulate life. In the words of one Wall Street Journal headline, “In Attics and Closets, ‘Biohackers’ Discover their Inner Frankenstein.” But in a first-ever survey of the DIYbio community, the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars finds the community is far more innocuous than news reports and others might suggest.

This report challenges seven widely held beliefs about DIYbio practitioners, particularly that anonymous scientists are cooking up deadly epidemics in their basements. In fact, the survey finds most lab work being done in the community is benign and that the vast majority of those surveyed perform their experiments in group workspaces with other enthusiasts. The report also includes six policy recommendations based on the survey results.

The raw survey results can be found here.

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Experts & Staff

  • David Rejeski // Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program; Interim Director, Commons Lab
  • Todd Kuiken, Ph.D. // Senior Program Associate, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Aaron Lovell // Writer/Editor/Program Manager, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Eleonore Pauwels // Program Associate/Researcher, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Anne Bowser // Researcher, Data Science and Visualization, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Elizabeth Tyson // New Projects/Technology Scout, Science and Technology Innovation Program
  • Sharon Weinberger // Global Fellow
  • Piers Millett // Global Fellow