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
Every year, the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention has a Meeting of Experts to share updates on developments relevant to the Convention. This year, several colleagues and I presented on work we have been doing as part of the ESRC/AHRC/DSTL funded grant on The Formulation and Non-formulation of Security Concerns: Preventing the Destructive Application of the Life Sciences. I presented on ways to “‘Take Care’ of Security in Synthetic Biology,” which… Read More »Presentation to the BWC Meeting of Experts Side Event
In a recent issue of Nature, there was a special section on moving ‘Beyond Divisions’ in building the future of synthetic biology. While I and many of my colleagues support many ways of moving beyond many types of divisions, we thought the initial ‘Worldview‘ piece byÂ Volker ter Meulen required a concerted reply, as it missed the point of much of our work. 20 colleagues (listed below) and I sent… Read More »Letter to the Editor of Nature on Synthetic Biology
My report with the Flemish Peace Institute on Multilateral Export Control List Modification Processes is now published. The first part of the introduction is below. An export control system is one of a range of mechanisms that states can employ to govern the security concerns tied to goods and technologyI. It is a tool that has been used by states as long as states have existed, in conjunction with sanctions,… Read More »Report on Multilateral Export Control List Modification Processes Published
TheÂ European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) is the European counterpart to 4S. Attracting a more European crowd, this society is a key part of maintaining my links with the research trends there following my doctoral work at the University of Oxford.
On 21 February 2013, the US Government released a proposed policy for institutional oversight of dual-use research of concern. This proposed policy was then opened to public comments, where were due yesterday. As someone who has been looking at issues of dual-use research and technology for nearly a decade, and having recently turned my attention more specifically to dual-use research in the life sciences, I felt that I needed to comment.… Read More »Dual Use Research of Concern – Comments on the US Government’s Proposed Policy
Now available in the latest issue of Mineva: Export Controls and the Tensions Between Academic Freedom and National Security Samuel A. W. Evans,Â Walter D. ValdiviaÂ (May 2012) Abstract: In the U.S.A., advocates of academic freedomâ€”the ability to pursue research unencumbered by government controlsâ€”have long found sparring partners in government officials who regulate technology trade. From concern over classified research in the 1950s, to the expansion of export controls to cover trade… Read More »New Paper: Export Controls and the Tensions Between Academic Freedom and National Security