A stem cell dream: dialogue based public event

A dialogue based event about the real issues in stem cell research. Can iPS cells – ‘hot stuff’ for researchers as it is one of the latest major breakthroughs in stem cell science – be used to treat disease like Parkinson’s? Can we develop safe treatments now? What does science say?

What are others saying about this resource?: 

“The Stem Cell Dream event has been very interesting, engaging and a lot of fun! It didn’t make me dream, rather think critically about the implications of stem cell research advances in our everyday life.” Michela Bertero, CRG Barcelona

Technical requirements: 

Microphones, video screen, speakers, projector, laptop, Powerpoint, internet connection, digital voting technology and portal or camera to capture audience’s coloured cards.

Venue information: 

theatre or similar - tiered seating is preferable; classroom


science journalist or someone with interview skills

Required materials: 

Internet connection or copy of the MJ Fox YouTube videoStem Cell Story film, feedback forms for all invitees and participants, 3 colour coded cards for voting ‘yes, no, or not sure’ for each participant (if not using voting clickers).


  1. Recruit 4 persons: a Facilitator who is ideally a science journalist or has interview skills and experience, (A) a clinician working with neurological disease patients or a patient representative, (B) a stem cell scientist, and (C) a scientist working on iPS cells and technology to treat PD.  Have an extra person or two there on the evening to greet guests, help with technology issues, pass out news articles, and voting mechanisms or cards.
  2. Book a venue to accommodate 100 persons, preferably with tiered seating. 
  3. Generate some press coverage before the event.  A commentary piece in a local or national newspaper will generate some interest and present some background information to the potential audience.
  4. Prepare a press piece to announce the event and an eInvite to send to invitees.  Provide RSVP details to prevent over-booking your venue.
  5. Load all speakers’ presentations and videos on to one laptop in advance of the event.
  6. Be familiar with the voting technology and load the questions in advance of the evening on to the software.

Event schedule and timings


Part one (25 min)




On arrival, audience members have the chance to read on a rotating set of slides projected on the screen

  • A fictional news story about an application for a clinical trial to treat Parkinson’s disease using iPS derived dopamine producing cells
  • A summary of an article written in The Times that describes the medical potential of iPS cells as exaggerated


5.55 – 6.05pm


Facilitator introduces the format for the event and introduces speakers.


6.05 -6.08pm


Clinician A / Patient representative gives introduction on neurological disease, for example Parkinson’s (YouTube film of MJ Fox, effects of PD from patient point of view; also possibly includes Guardian headline ‘Parkinson’s miracle cure turns into a catastrophe’ to create some controversy.)


6.08 – 6.20pm


Facilitator invites audience to vote on three statements that are projected on a screen using the voting slide.  Their answers will be based on the limited info they have. Use digital voting technology if possible, for real-time results or else coloured cards.


  1. I think stem cells are dangerous for patients – yes, no, not sure
  2. I think embryonic stem cells have more potential to treat disease than iPS cells – yes, no, not sure
  3. I am in favour of a clinical trial using iPS cells to treat neurological disease – yes, no, not sure


6.20 – 6.25pm


Part two (50 min)




Facilitator introduces other member(s) of the panel who will present their take on the case presented.


  • Scientist B----. Works on stem cells.
  • Scientist C----, Researches iPS cells to study neurological disease.


6.25 – 6.27pm


B gives presentation from an historical perspective: Introducing Stem Cells and where we are now.

  • 5 min intro film on stem cells (excerpt from a Stem Cell Story film 00:00 – 04:32)
  • recap: properties of stem cells: self renewal and differentiation
  • different types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells / tissue (adult) stem cells
  • discovery in 2006/2007: induced pluripotent stem cells technique
  • why scientists so excited (up to cell lines)


6.27 – 6.45pm


C continues presentation why scientists are so excited about iPS cells: current research on iPS to understand and treat neurological disease.




A /patient rep: respond to presentations from B and C from a patient’s perspective


6.55 – 7pm


Questions & sum-up 

Facilitator summarizes points made, and invites audience to ask questions


7 – 7.15pm


Part three (15 min)




Facilitator invites audience to vote on same statements again.


  1. I think stem cells are dangerous for patients – yes, no, not sure
  2. I think embryonic stem cells have more potential to treat disease than iPS cells – yes, no, not sure
  3. I am in favour of a clinical trial using iPS cells to treat neurological disease – yes, no, not sure


7.15 – 7.22pm


Facilitator comments on change (if any).  Asks individuals in audience what changed their minds.


7.22 – 7.29pm


Facilitator thanks audience and panel members for attendance, encouraged to fill in feedback forms outside


7.29 – 7.30pm

Stem Cell Dream Introduction in English.ppt215 KB Stem Cell Dream-Voting Slide English.ppt156 KB News article: The Times (pdf)216.56 KB Teacher notes for classroom set-up (pdf)167.9 KB Fictional news article Trial (pdf)119.24 KB Evaluation form (pdf)154.82 KB

Developed by Ingrid Heersche (CRM), Ana Godinho (ISCR), Kate Doherty (EuroStemCell).  Originally part of the Big ideas programme at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Stem Cell Dream by Ingrid Heersche, Ana Godinho, Kate Doherty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at www.crm.ed.ac.uk.