The application of genome editing to animal research connects to a wide variety of policy concerns and public conversations. In this paper, we explore three key roles that publics are playing in the development of genome editing techniques applied to animals in biomedical research. First, publics are positioned by surveys and focus groups as stakeholders with opinions that matter to the development of research technologies. Learning lessons from controversies over genetically modified food in Europe, these methods are used to identify problems in science–society relations that need to be managed. Second, people are recruited into research projects through participating in biobanks and providing data, where their contributions are encouraged by appeals to the public good and maintained by public confidence. Thirdly, patients are increasingly taking positions within research governance, as lay reviewers on funding panels, where their expertise helps align research priorities and practices with public expectations of research. These plural publics do not easily aggregate into a simple or singular public opinion on genome editing. We conclude by suggesting more attention is needed to the multiple roles that different publics expect – and are expected – to play in the future development of genomic technologies.