Synthetic biology, from its early stages of development, has had an explicit focus on biosafety and biosecurity concerns. These concerns are being identified and addressed in different ways, including strategies that ‘take care of’ them by getting them off the mind, and approaches that attend to and ‘care for’ concerns in more open-ended ways. In this chapter, we look at the shaping of concerns and non-concerns relating to biosafety and… Read More »Book chapter on ‘Taking Care’ in synthetic biology
Started in 2016, Tufts University’s Program on Science, Technology, and Society offers an undergraduate Co-Major in STS an a Minor in STS. I am an Assistant Research Professor there.
This edited volume explores the concept of vulnerability as a useful analytic lens for studying big issues in technological cultures, providing a more compassionate and encompassing framing of issues than traditional risk analyses. â€œBook Review: Vulnerability in Technological Cultures: New Directions in Research and Governance. Edited by Anique Hommels, Jessica Mesman and Wiebe E. Bijker.â€Â Science and Public Policy. 17 February 2015.
In this brief Perspective in the Journal of Responsible Innovation, I discuss the different conceptions of security that are being debated over within the biology, and specifically the synthetic biology, community. I argue that understanding who is constructing security concerns, and how, should be an active area of research, as should be how to govern innovation now when potentially catastrophic outcomes might result from choosing one pathway over another. If… Read More »What’s the Matter with Biosecurity?
The Science and Democracy Network (SDN) was established in 2002 to enhance the quality and significance of scholarship in science and technology studies (STS) by training young professionals and by forging links between STS and related fields of study and practice. The SDN sponsors an annual meeting whose primary goal is to strengthen and deepen STS scholarship on science and democracy, and to provide training opportunities for young STS scholars… Read More »Science and Democracy Network
The Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) is the leading academic society for Science and Technology Studies (STS). As an active member, I attend their annual meeting, where I often host sessions about building a community within STS around science, technology, and security issues research. This is a primary venue for sharing my current work, and learning about activity in the discipline.
I am a Research Affiliate of the Program on Emerging Technology at MIT. This program, run by Ken Oye, focuses on governance questions around emerging technology, with a strong current interest in synthetic biology. While there, I am conducting research both with and on the Program: assessing how the synthetic biology community constructs and governs security concerns, and the role of this program in that process.
When should a society be concerned about the security aspects of its innovation pathways, and when should it not be concerned? This long-term project explores this question over several technical areas (such as computing, synthetic biology, and cryptography) and in a variety of governance settings, including labs, student competitions, funding bodies, and national and international government bodies. There is no easy answer to the question of when something is a… Read More »Is this a threat?
A continual question amongst the Science and Technology Studies (STS) community (as well as in anthropology and related disciplines) is how to manage relationships with the subjects of our studies. Those of us conducting research on contemporary topics often need to reflect on our roles in shaping the work that we are then studying, and how to navigate the need for analytic distance and the need for close proximity to… Read More »Modes of engagement for STS scholars
Synthetic biology, the purposeful engineering of organisms, may or may not pose security concerns to people, states, and the environment. Whether it does, and what is done about it, are the subject of this area of work. I use a mix of participant observation, ethnography, textual and discourse analysis, and interviews to understand and engage with the synthetic biology community (including government, synthetic biologists, industry, other social scientists, and NGOs).… Read More »Security concerns in synthetic biology