Champion FAQs

Move over zebrafish: Champion a species in the 25 Genomes competition!

To mark its 25th Anniversary, the Wellcome Sanger Institute are embarking on a brand new project to sequence a cross-sample of UK biodiversity, and will fully decode the DNA of 25 species that have never been decoded before. Twenty species have already been selected, with the final five to be decided by a public vote.

Researchers and wildlife experts are invited to champion yet-to-be sequenced species in this online competition where young people, and the general public, will vote for the organisms whose entire genetic code they want to see fully unravelled next.

It all takes place between 6th November–8th December.

The online event aims to engage school students and young people with the cutting edge DNA analysis at the Sanger Institute and the importance of genome sequencing by giving them a real say in future research.

Read on for more information…

How does it work?

25 Genomes is based on the award-winning I’m a Scientist format. In five different categories, called ‘zones’, researchers will go up against colleagues, other scientists and conservation experts to champion the species whose DNA they believe should be sequenced:

  • Cryptic Zone
  • Iconic Zone
  • Dangerous Zone
  • Flourishing Zone
  • Floundering Zone

Each champion (or team of champions) represents one species and completes a profile page about the organism. School students then send in questions to champions using the ASK section, e.g:

Champions will also defend their species in half-hour real-time text-based live chats with young people scheduled throughout the five weeks of the event and alongside their rivals.

The winning species in each Zone will have it’s entire DNA sequence decoded by the Wellcome Sanger Institute.


How much time does it take?

The event is designed to allow you to take part as flexibly as possible over the five weeks. Because everything takes place online you just log in to the site whenever, and wherever, you can. Questions sent to you through ASK can be answered any time and many researchers leave these until after work. Chats with schools and groups are likely to be booked between 9am-4pm, however, none are compulsory, you simply sign up to those you can make around your normal schedule. There will be a maximum of 3 half hour chats per day.

In total, there is a potential for up to 10 hours of engagement each week. It is likely that most weeks you will do less than this, and some days you may not have any chats or questions, while on others you will find you can attend 3 chats.

The event is five weeks long, but you’re not expected to be online 24/7 for five weeks. If there are any particular days you know you definitely won’t be available or other limits to your availability, please let us know. It should be possible to work around any limits to availability if we know in advance.


Can I champion a species as a team?

Yes, to help as many researchers take part as possible and to make the time commitment more flexible, you can team up with other researchers to champion a species. Let us know if you want to add anyone to your team by emailing


How do Live Chats work?

Live chats are text only, a bit like Whatsapp or Facebook group messages. You don’t need any special software, just your computer and access to the internet (but we find Chrome works best).

25 Genomes will involve chats with UK school students, usually booked during the school day (9am-4pm), but there will be some chats with public groups and international schools too. Some of these might be outside the normal hours. We’ll let you know when chats have been booked well in advance, and you just sign up to those you can do.

You can see an example of how the Live Chat works here.

Test the chat out by coming to the drop-in chat session in the staffroom from 3-4pm on Thursday 2nd November. Your lines will be right-aligned, students on the left, and mod lines will be in yellow. Remember that anyone with a mortarboard symbol next to their name is a teacher.

Click on a student’s question to reply to it, otherwise they may not realise you’ve answered their question and keep asking it. If a chat is very busy, use the ‘show messages @me’ in the top right, which allows you to see messages directly for you. The number in the circle next to a student’s display name in the chat shows the number of times they have been answered, so it’s a good idea to look out for students with a 0 to make sure all students get a reply.

Some handy hints:
• Chats can be very hectic, but also exhilarating. Enjoy the hurly-burly and don’t worry too much about your spelling!

• Be patient. Some young people’s turn of phrase and use of language may be different from academic discourse. It may take you a little while to understand what they are trying to ask. This is especially true when Special Schools are involved.

• Be tolerant. Sometimes young people can be over-exuberant online. Chat with them and they will calm down and engage with you.

• Don’t take offence. Sometimes you will receive questions which seem quite blunt, but usually students don’t mean to be offensive. The benefit of an online event is that they feel empowered to ask.


What’s your moderation policy for questions?

All questions are moderated before they are sent to you, in order to strike a balance between making your lives easier as champions and giving students the chance to ask real questions.


Merge (deduplicate) very similar questions, but allow some questions which might appear similar, but make slightly different points.

Remove rude or offensive questions, but allow challenging and irreverent questions.

Allow questions which may be unclear – you can start dialogues with students to clarify them.

Will not correct the spelling, grammar or punctuation of any students questions.


Can the public vote?

Yes! Members of the public will be able to log in through social media, and vote for species in all five zones. The public can also use the ASK section to send you their own questions. Feel free to publicise your involvement and drum up support for your species – let us know if you publish any blog posts or similar.

If you know of a public group that might like to organise a Live Chat session with the species in your zone we can book one in for them. Just drop Michaela an email ( and we can arrange with them a time that suits.


What happens if my species wins?

If your species is voted the winner in your zone, the Institute will sequence the DNA of the species as part of its 25th Anniversary celebrations next year. You will have full access to the genome pre-publication, and the raw data will be made public fairly immediately. The fully annotated and assembled version of the genome will be available to you for 12 months before being released. You will also be invited to the Institute’s exhibition weekend next July.

Get in touch if you’ve got any questions not covered here, or you need help with anything. You can do this by email on, or on 01225 326 892. We’re here to help!


Do I need to do any IT checks?

No, not really. The site’s very simple. It uses HTML and some JavaScript. We may use JavaScript to run the chat page, but no Flash and no plug ins.

It uses cookies.

It has been tested on all major browsers and should be fine on machines running Windows, MacOS or Linux. We suggest using Chrome.

If you can access the site, edit your profile and answer questions then everything is working fine.

If you can, come to the drop in chat sessions to say hi, and just check that you can use the live chat. Rarely a corporate firewall or similar may block the live chats. This is more common with school firewalls, and far less common since we got better live chat technology. But best to find out in advance of the first chat booking!


How do I get in touch?

During the competition the best way to contact us is in the staffroom. There will always be a moderator or two in there chatting and updating teachers and participants about system issues or live chat changes.

Obviously email is also good — if you have a bit more to say, or if it is private — you can contact Michaela on