The use of embryos in research opens up an array of therapeutic applications and generates intense social debate on the ethical and legal issues involved. Congresses held on the use of stem cells often highlight the need to establish social dialogue; however, there are few mechanisms available with which to facilitate this interaction. This project arose in response to a lack of communication channels to encourage informed social debate. In this regard, an exhibition named “Embryos and Medicine in the 21st Century” was designed in a format that is both interactive and easy to understand, covering the ethical and scientific issues related to this question and the opinions of distinct sectors of society. Through several interactive tools, this exhibition aimed to encourage the general public to participate in the debate on the use of embryos for obtaining stem cells. An evaluation was performed while this exhibition was held in the UB, where it received 2,700 visitors. The evaluation showed that approximately 80% of the visitors who expressed an opinion defended the use of embryonic stem cells for research purposes. These results were cited in Science (Vol. 299, February 2003). Consequently, this project is a unique and innovative tool with which to establish true and informed dialogue with the public. The design of future communication initiatives aimed at stimulating public participation should consider the evaluation and the methodology used in this exhibition.
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