Given the rapid pace of genetic and genomic research and technology development, it is increasingly important for the public to gain an understanding of genetic concepts and associated ethical and policy issues so as to make informed decisions about how it may affect their lives. Researchers can play a major role in promoting public understanding, though the interests and unique perspectives of the public may not always align with what researchers wish to communicate. The Genome Diner program was developed on the principle that it is critical for researchers and the public to gain a better awareness of each other's perspectives in a fun, informal setting.
Genome Diner is an exciting discussion game that consists of a menu and two sets of discussion cards. To encourage participation, we suggest the game be played over a meal or snack, hence the name “Genome Diner”. The diner theme is used throughout to help guide participants through background science and social issues as well as discussion questions.
Genome Diner is designed for ages 11 and up. Play in groups of 6-10 with one person designated as the leader and one guest geneticist. The leader helps choose starter questions, deals the cards and encourages everyone to join in the discussion. Ideally, the guest geneticist is not the leader. Ask the geneticist questions, but remember your opinions are just as important to share.
Begin with the starter questions listed in the menu. The leader can assign them to individuals or ask for volunteers. Discuss as many or few starter questions as you would like to get the group warmed up.
Next, choose a discussion topic and pass out the topic cards. Currently, the kit includes two discussion topics, Population Research and Genetic Risk Research. Each topic has three types of cards (8 Background cards; 4 Issues Cards; 7 Discussion cards). Pass out the Background Science cards for the chosen topic. The cards are numbered in the order they should be read. Ask each individual who has the next numbered card to read it aloud to the group (For example, Card #1, #2, #3…). After all of the Background cards have been read, discussed and/or questioned by the group, pass out the Issue cards and do the same. Lastly Pass out the discussion cards and do the same. The leader can encourage the group to disagree, question or discuss any of the cards with your table!
At the end of the game, each person in a group is asked to share what they feel is the most interesting or surprising thing learned. If there is more than one group, a volunteer from each group can be asked to share a summary of their group's findings with everyone else.
You will need to print out the following (See below to download game materials):
Enjoy playing Genome Diner – it's great food for thought!
The Genome Diner program was supported by a two-year grant through the NIH Partners in Research Program, partially funded through the NHGRI, and developed in collaboration with the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The goal of the program was to facilitate the engagement of genetic/genomic researchers with members of the community. For the two-year pilot we focused on middle school-aged students and their parents, however, we envision the program could work for diverse groups in various settings such as community centers, churches, libraries and schools or be integrated with other educational programs. Through the use of an informal discussion game kit, the Genome Diner program intends to engage community groups in thoughtful dialogue about genome science and social issues side-by-side with genetic/genomic researchers trained in any specialty from microbiology, to bioinformatics, to clinical research, to ethics and policy. Through the pilot, our findings indicated that, participation significantly increased researchers' perspectives of the public's knowledge and attitudes towards genetic research, while also increasing their confidence in being able to effectively interact with members of diverse publics regarding genetic/genomic topics. Public participants further increased their interest in genetic research, but also appeared to become more discerning in their evaluation of research. We are currently preparing these results for publication.
If you have any questions and/or wish to discuss using Genome Diner in your future educational programs, please email Geneviève Michelle Tindall or call her at 919-681-3499.