Science and Technology Publications
This July 2011 issue of Synthetic Biology 2.0 looks at the work of the United States Presidential Bioethics Commission, the dominant discourse in the synthetic biology debate, vaccines as the first commercial applicaiton of synthetic biology, do-it-yourself biology, biosecurity, and biofiction where science and arts meet.
The increase in media coverage of synthetic biology between 2003-2008 is tracked in this 2008 report. The combined survey rests on the findings of individual U.S. and European press coverage analyses, and examines aspects of synthetic biology that may be cause for either potential public acceptance or rejection of the technology. The report concludes with an agenda for future social science research that can inform our understanding of how public perceptions of synthetic biology develop.
In New Life, Old Bottles: Regulating First-Generation Products of Synthetic Biology, Michael Rodemeyer examines the benefits and drawbacks of using the existing U.S. regulatory framework for biotechnology to cover the new products and processes enabled by synthetic biology. The safety of early applications of synthetic biology may be adequately addressed by the existing regulatory framework for biotechnology, especially in contained laboratories and manufacturing facilities, according to the report. But further advances in this emerging field are likely to create significant challenges for U.S. government oversight.
A groundbreaking poll of 1,001 U.S. adults conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies found 90 percent of Americans think that the public should be better informed about the development of cutting-edge technologies, according to this 2009 report summarizing the findings.
A 2010 analysis by the Synthetic Biology Project found that the U.S. government spent around $430 million on research related to synthetic biology since 2005, with the Department of Energy funding a majority of the research. By comparison, the analysis indicated that the European Union and three individual European countries – the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Germany – had spent approximately $160 million during that same period. Approximately 4 percent of the U.S. funding and 2 percent of the European funding was being spent to explore ethical, legal, and social implications of synthetic biology, but no projects focused on risk assessment.
From August 16 to August 22, 2010, Hart Research Associates conducted a nationwide survey among 1,000 adults about attitudes toward the entities involved in the oversight of new scientific and technological advances, awareness of nanotechnology, and awareness of and attitudes toward synthetic biology and two potential applications of the science. According to this report, awareness of nanotechnology was at its highest measured level in five years. This same year, one in three Americans reported hearing a lot or some about nanotechnology, which was a slight increase over results in 2009.
The first edition of the Synthetic Biology Newsletter, published in November 2010, reviews the basics of synthetic biology, explains how this new emerging technology intersects with several areas of science and talks about its effect on public perception.
View Existing health and safety agencies are unable to cope with the risk assessment, standard setting and oversight challenges of advancing nanotechnology. The nation needs a new agency to address current forms of pollution and to deal with the health and environmental impacts of the technically complex products promised by rapid 21st century scientific advances. In this landmark report, Oversight of Next Generation Nanotechnology, J. Clarence (Terry) Davies calls for a new Department of Environmental and Consumer Protection to oversee product regulation, pollution control and monitoring, and technology assessment.
View Recent action in Congress to reauthorize the U.S. federal nanotechnology research program offers the chance to address the social and ethical issues concerning the emerging scientific field, experts say. “It is crucial to address social and ethical issues now as we consider both the substantial potential risks of nanotechnology and its possible significant contributions to our well-being and environmental sustainability,” says Ronald Sandler, Northeastern University philosophy professor and author of a new report funded by the Project and the National Science Foundation. The report emphasizes ways in which such topics intersect with governmental functions and responsibilities, including science and technology policy, as well as research funding, regulation and work on public engagement.
Synthetic biology will allow scientists and engineers to create biological systems that do not occur naturally as well as to re-engineer existing biological systems to perform novel and beneficial tasks. This 2009 report presents a framework for addressing the social and ethical issues surrounding the field.