About Synthetic Biology & the SeriesSynthetic biology is a new field which draws on both biology and engineering to design and construct new living things, or parts of living things, and to modify existing ones. Synthetic biology promises social and economic benefits, but because of its potential to create life 'from scratch', it also raises many social and ethical concerns. This has led to a great deal of policy interest in the field, and to the early-stage involvement of social scientists. The central aim of this seminar series is to build a network of social scientists who are critically engaged in the analysis of synthetic biology.
Social scientists have become involved in various different synthetic biology initiatives in the UK, but these social scientists are dispersed institutionally, they collaborate with different scientists, and come from different disciplinary perspectives. This ESRC seminar series provides a mechanism for bringing these social scientists together so that they can share and build upon their experiences, and explore the possibility of developing an interdisciplinary research agenda for the social scientific analysis of synthetic biology.
The series will attempt to develop an analysis of the societal, ethical and policy dimensions of synthetic biology in real time, as the scientific research progresses. This 'upstream' engagement with synthetic biology will involve new types of collaborative relationship between social scientists and synthetic biologists. It could lead to a change in the way in which the role of social scientists in emerging technologies is understood, and to fundamentally different assumptions about the relationship between science and society.