Synthetic biology is an emerging field of science and technology that focuses on designing and creating novel biological systems. It promises to devise solutions for pressing energy, public health and environmental issues. Yet synthetic biology also gives rise to a number of challenges, including potential environmental and socio-economic risks. Public awareness of synthetic biology is still low, however, and the precise contours of the field are not yet clear even to scientists working in it. In this early development phase of synthetic biology, it is essential to establish open dialogue between stakeholders, to understand public concerns and ensure collaborative shaping of the field, aligned with societal needs and expectations.
The SYNENERGENE project responds to this challenge by initiating and fostering public dialogue on synthetic biology and mutual learning processes among a wide variety of stakeholders from science, industry, civil society, education, art and other fields. Iterative mutual learning within SYNENERGENE will help bring about a better understanding of synthetic biology research and innovation and will enhance public engagement. At the same time, it will stimulate reflection on novel approaches to inclusive governance frameworks capable of fostering responsible research and innovation (RRI). International in scope, SYNENERGENE will also make major contributions to the European Commission’s new framework of RRI by exploring the potential of the instrument of Mobilisation and Mutual Learning Action Plans (MMLAPs).
Specifically, SYNENERGENE aims...
- to make existing practices of RRI in synthetic biology socially more robust,
- to mobilise new stakeholders to participate in discourse on synthetic biology,
- to involve the general public and specific “publics” and improve the quality of public participation by a wide variety of means,
- to analyse and to make available the results of all public dialogue and stakeholder-oriented activities to policy makers, other stakeholders and the public,
- to promote mutual learning processes between a wide variety of established and new stakeholders in discourse on synthetic biology, stimulating reflection and activities on novel and innovative avenues to an inclusive governance framework in accordance with a European concept of RRI and of high international visibility, and
- to help developing sustainable agendas for RRI in synthetic biology which systematically take into account the views of citizens involved in public communication activities.