You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘public’ tag.
Dr Matthew Kearnes and Professor Phil Macnaghten from IHRR were advisors for a new project on public attitudes to synthetic biology called Synthetic Biology Dialogue. They provide an introduction to the project’s research and insights into public perception of risks associated with emerging technologies.
In a month when new proposals for public engagement on GM foods have hit the headlines due to allegations of political interference and bias, the launch of the Synthetic Biology Dialogue report is a testament to the capacity for techniques of “upstream public engagement” to enable public consideration of the possible ramifications of emerging areas of scientific and technological development.
Synthetic biology is an emerging area of interdisciplinary research that seeks to apply the principles of engineering design to biological systems and processes. Credited with attempting to create life from scratch, the recent announcement by the Craig Venter Group of the creation of the ‘first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell’ has made synthetic biology the focus of much debate and discussion. As with many areas of scientific and technological innovation this debate is characterised by competing claims of possible benefits and risks. For its proponents the field is full of promises with the potential to lead to new applications in areas as diverse as new energy systems and bio-fuels, new medical therapies, cellular computing and new forms of bio-remediation. Against this a number of reports have highlighted significant areas of potential social and ethical concerns together with calls for regulation of the field.
International research in synthetic biology is developing rapidly, centred on the development of the Registry of Standard Biological Parts and the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) held every year at MIT. In the UK, a number of interdisciplinary networks in synthetic biology networks have been recently established such as the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (CSynBI) built on collaboration between researchers at Imperial College London and the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE). Read more
IHRR works closely with community organisations, government and the public to develop solutions to some of the biggest flood hazards in UK. One particular strategy is using the landscape to reduce flood risk by making small changes in land use. This could potentially have a large impact on flood risks and hazards, but also local ecology. By making changes to the land in order to prevent flooding, it is also possible to create ecological benefits at the same time, such as creating new wildlife habitats for different kinds of animal species imperative to the overall health of the river and surrounding countryside.
One local organisation that IHRR works closely with is the Eden Rivers Trust located in Cumbria. The Eden Rivers Trust’s aims and goals are focused on conservation, scientific research and education. It includes large involvement from the public in conservation projects and helps local communities become increasingly aware of the ecological importance of the Eden and its tributaries. Read more
How do we understand the potential benefits, impacts and risks of nanotechnology? Last year researchers with the DEEPEN (Deepening Ethical Engagement and Participation in Emerging Nanotechnologies) project at IHRR, brought together some members of the public, policy makers, scientists and industrialists to discuss where should nanotechnology go next? and who should be involved in directing its development? The video below is an example of some of the materials produced from this project. Also, check out the links below for other outputs from the DEEPEN project, especially their final report: