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Mining Data in Einstein’s Garden 2016

24 August 2016

Over the past 4 years the MRC IEU have continued to build a close relationship with Einstein’s Garden at Green Man music festival. This year we returned with interactive art installation DATA MINE, developed in collaboration with designer Philippa Thomas.

The installation took inspiration from Maes Howe, a Neolithic tomb on the Orkney Islands. The central chamber is covered in ancient code which researchers are still trying to gleam information from. Drawing parallels between this and the human genome, Philippa was inspired to make a coded chamber of her own.

Filling a structure with over 9000 ribbons, each of which corresponded to a different genetic trait, we constructed a colour coded GWAS catalogue. Over the weekend visitors to the garden brought order to confusion of colours by moving ribbons from the inner chamber to the colour coded outer walls.

Visitors were instructed to select three ribbons and work with our researchers to uncover what each colour corresponded to which genetic traits. They were then invited to sit down with our researchers and have a conversation about their research whilst they plaited their genetic material ribbons into a ‘genome’ friendship bracelet that they could take away with them.

The installation was extremely popular with around 2000 visitors over the weekend and slowly but surely the jumbled colour of the central chamber was brought to order on the outer walls.

Dr. Kaitlin Wade, an early career researcher from the MRC IEU said “The data mine was a perfect platform to start a conversation about what I did specifically in my research and I think that helped the public understand what I do. It was incredibly fun to man and it was a perfect opportunity to chat to people about the genome, gene therapy, population health and genetic association.”

This project was made possible by a very generous award of MRC Seed Funding for public engagement. We hope to redeliver the project at other festivals in the near future. 

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