Public engagement and education has been top of mind at ASHG in recent months with a number of activities being undertaken. After months of essay submissions and rounds of judging, the winners of the DNA Day Essay Contest were announced on April 24. Out of about 850 submissions, four top winners and 11 honorable mentions were selected. The contest draws some of the highest engagement numbers throughout the year, with nearly 300 ASHG members volunteering to read and score essays in the 2020 contest. All winning and honorable mention essays are available to read on the 2020 results page. One of the goals of the contest is to encourage students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. To continue supporting genetics education in the classroom, the Society has created a fact sheet about the three types of ancestry tests addressed in the 2020 question.
ASHG has created and continued a number of additional resources in the public engagement and education arena for members including the following items:
#ChromosomeClash on Twitter –Starting April 1 and leading up to DNA Day on April 25, ASHG shared facts on our Twitter page @GeneticsSociety about each human chromosome. From April 26 to May 17, our Twitter followers voted for their favorite chromosome each day in the hopes that it would move on to the next round. This bracket-style challenge brought out friendly competition and surprise winners. After a hard-fought battle, Chromosome 18 was declared the winner. If you missed your chance to vote or want to try this with your friends and colleagues, print the bracket and share!
Discussion Panel on Reddit Science – On Friday, May 1, ASHG hosted its first discussion panel on the Reddit Science (or r/science) page. R/science is an online forum which allows science-interested Reddit users to share and discuss new scientific research. We recruited four panelists to answer questions about solving biological problems related to human diseases by studying animal models.
ASHG Webinar: Engaging Your Community around Genetics – ASHG’s latest engagement webinar featured current and former ASHG Education and Engagement fellows discussing how they engage with their local and broader communities. Their resources have been used during in-person and online events and range from simple experiments to ongoing efforts that reach underserved communities. If you are looking to start engaging with your community on genetics topics, watch the archived webinar for their best practices.
Past Webinars – All of ASHG’s webinars are archived and available to watch at any time. Other useful engagement webinars include “Using Social Media as a Scientist”, which provides insight into how scientists can build a social media presence, and “Take Initiative: DNA Day Engagement and You”, which highlights engagement resource in which ASHG members participate and have created.
ASHG One-Pager – At-home experiments boomed this spring as education moved to online spaces and to students’ homes. Just because students don’t have access to pipettes and microscopes does not mean they have to stop learning. ASHG collected simple activities students can do at home, including extracting DNA from strawberries, showing the importance of washing your hands with soap, and an interactive computer game from Hudson Alpha on the genetics of common disease.
We are more prepared than ever to connect virtually, and the GENE Network is no exception. When members sign up for the GENE Network, you are asked the level of support you can provide. Make sure you select that you can support virtually. Connect with your local schools, libraries, and museums to lead an experiment over video or a Question and Answer session about a genetics concept. Connect with your local media to write an op-ed about your research or clear up common misconceptions you see in the news. Offer to do informational interviews with local high school and college students.
If you’re interested in receiving more ASHG engagement and education updates, sign up for the GENE Network to receive the Engage newsletter, a quarterly newsletter about the ASHG engagement and education community. The Current Engagement Resources and Activities page is also being continually updated with new activities and opportunities.