Promoting linguistic diversity in community and stakeholder engagement

July 16, 2020

BIDS Data Science Fellow Váleri Vásquez contributed to a recent study that sought to inform and consult non-English speaking publics in California about gene drive science.

Working with scientists who were directly involved in the development of the gene drives being presented, the authors translated crucial information about this complex emerging technology into Spanish. They then successfully engaged Spanish-speaking audiences on questions about gene drive and its potential impact on their communities.

Brown and Black mosquito on green stem - pexels Egor KamelevAs part of the study, the authors translated the narration for a set of previously-developed slideshows on gene drive mosquitoes from English into Spanish, and reviewed each translated version carefully for scientific accuracy as well as accessibility.

They then conducted a series of online focus groups with Spanish-speakers in California. The team found that after viewing the slideshows, the participants were able to engage critically with the information being presented.

The team's efforts emphasize the importance and feasibility of active engagement with Spanish-speaking publics on gene drive science. They further demonstrate that this engagement can be achieved by drawing on the linguistic diversity of the scientific teams developing the technology.

While information about genetic engineering in the US is primarily distributed in English, depending on the geographic region, non-English speakers are often equally – if not more – affected by its implementation.

Váleri, who studies gene drives as part of her doctoral work, has also long been an advocate for multilingual engagement in data science education and public policy outreach. She says, “It is critical to directly engage communities who will be affected by emerging technologies such as gene drive. To ensure equal access to information for all stakeholders, as well as truly democratic opportunities for feedback, questions, and expressions of concern, it’s vital that this engagement happen in the language most accessible for them.”


Translating gene drive science to promote linguistic diversity in community and stakeholder engagement
June 26, 2020  |  Global Public Health
Cynthia Cheung, Stephanie Gamez, Rebeca Carballar-Lejarazú, Victor Ferman, Váleri N. Vásquez, Gerard Terradas, Judy Ishikawa, Cynthia E. Schairer, Ethan Bier, John M. Marshall, Anthony A. James, Omar S. Akbari, Cinnamon S. Bloss

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Váleri N. Vásquez

Energy and Resources Group