Eleonore Pauwels is a Senior Program Associate and Scholar with the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her primary focus is a comparative and critical analysis of the EU and US approaches towards the societal governance of genomic technologies. She is also examining the challenges that new forms of biotechnology pose for political and public policy organizations, and the regulatory innovations that emerge alongside developments in cutting edge technologies. Her past research has included risk communication, citizen participation in technical controversies, and the epistemology of regulatory and social scientific experiments.

As a public policy expert with professional experience both in the U.S. and in Europe, Eleonore brings ten years of leadership in science policy, with in-depth expertise in the governance of emerging technologies such as genomics, synthetic biology and neurosciences. She has been awarded several grants by U.S. and European institutions, including the U.S. National Science Foundation and the European Commission (FP7). She is currently one of the principal investigators for SYNENERGENE, a 4-year international grant with a total budget of 4 million euros funded by the European Commission to promote responsible research and innovation in synthetic biology. Directing the international platform of SYNENERGENE, she conducts research on the societal, ethical, policy and regulatory governance of synthetic biology and genomics technology in general. Based on this research, she presented a series of findings to a range of U.S. and European authorities such as the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the European Commission and the United Nations.

Eleonore’s area of expertise also includes public perceptions and press coverage of synthetic biology, with an additional focus on how this new science is being communicated by policymakers, the media and different scientific communities  – a collection of findings published in the academic journal Nature.  Her research on technology and society has been featured in newspapers like The New York Times, The Guardian, Scientific American, Slate and The Miami Herald. Check her personal website ( )

While at the Wilson Center, she began working on numerous focus groups and national surveys to understand public perceptions and concerns around emerging areas of science.  Again and again, she found that informed groups of citizens could identify a rich range of issues associated with new technologies, adding nuances to the views of experts and the policy-making community. Over time, taking the public’s pulse became integrated into her work on understanding the risks and benefits of new technologies and convinced her that science policy can be improved through sustained dialogue with the public.

Outside of the Wilson Center, Eleonore is collaborating with a range of players on the biology and health frontier to encourage involvement of non-traditional actors and citizen participation in new health technologies, including genomics and mobile health.


Science, Technology and Innovation Policy; Innovation Ecosystems; Genomics, Precision Medicine, Synthetic Biology, Nanotechnology;  Society and Culture;  Governance;  Europe; European Union; United States

Major Publications

Pauwels E. and Jim Dratwa, Personalized Medicine: A Faustian Bargain, Scientific American, December 11, 2015. 

Pauwels, E., STAT, Expert Debate: Are we playing with fire when we edit human genes; Don’t let the story get ahead of the facts, November 17, 2015.

Pauwels E. and Jim Dratwa, How Identity Evolves in the Age of Genetic Imperialism, Scientific American, March 13, 2015.

Pauwels E., Mind The Metaphor, Nature, Vol. 500, August 29, 2013, p. 523-524.

Pauwels E., Our Genes, Their Secrets, The New York Times, June 18, 2013.

Pauwels E., Watch Where You Shed Your DNA—an Artist Might Use It, Slate, May 31, 2013.

Pauwels E. and Skallas P., Science Fiction: Worker bees cannot leave, Methods Quarterly, July 2015.

Eleonore Pauwels :  On ne sait pas communiquer sur la modification du génome, Interview, Le Monde, October 26, 2015.

Questions swarm around synthetic biology's impact on Mother Nature; Pauwels’ research was quoted in this article about the public awareness about synthetic biology, article by Alan Boyle on, April 3, 2013.

“Synbio” coverage on the rise – Articles focus on ethics and biosafety, study says; Pauwels is interviewed by Curtis Brainard, The Observatory, Columbia Journalism Review, December 6, 2012

Pauwels E., Kuiken T., Beyond the Laboratory and Far Away: Immediate and Future Challenges in Governing the Bio-Economy, Policy Brief, WWICS, January 2013.

Pauwels E., “Who Let the Social Scientists into The Lab?” in M. Gorman (UVA), N. Savage (EPA), A. Street (DOE) (eds), Emerging Technologies: Socio-Behavioral Life Cycle Approaches, Pan Stanford Publishing 2013.

Pauwels E. “Public Understanding of Synthetic Biology,” BioScience, Feb 2013, Vol. 63, N. 2.

Pauwels E. “Budget Hero: not just a game – Playing a computer game that models the budget’s tough choices is serious fun: an exercise in participatory democracy,” The Guardian, Friday July 29, 2011. 

Pauwels E., "The Value of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to Sustainability Research. A Critical Approach toward Synthetic Biology Promises," in Carlo C. Jaeger, J. David Tàbara, and Julia Jaeger (eds), Transformative Research for Sustainable Development, Springer, July 2011.

Pauwels E., “Who Let the Humanists into the Lab?,” Valparaiso University Law Review’s 2011 Symposium Issue –The Synthetic Cell: Bioethics, Law and the Implications of Synthetic Life, Volume 45, forthcoming August 2011.

Pauwels, E. (2010), “Who let the engineers into the lab?”, Genewatch, Volume 23, Issue 1, April 2010.

Pauwels, E. (2009), Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Studies on U.S. Public Perceptions of Synthetic Biology, in Systems and Synthetic Biology; ISSN: 1872-5325 (Print) 1872-5333 (Online), Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, Springer, 3, 1-4, 37-46.

Pauwels, E., and I. Ifrim, “Trends in American and European Press Coverage of Synthetic Biology – Tracking the Last Five Years of Coverage”, Synthetic Biology Project 1, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, November 2008.