Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

Session Schedule & Abstracts

* Disclaimer: All presentations represent the views of the authors, and not the organizations that support their research. Please apply the standard disclaimer that any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in abstracts, posters, and presentations at the meeting are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organization or agency. Meeting attendees and authors should be aware that this disclaimer is intended to apply to all abstracts contained in this document. Authors who wish to emphasize this disclaimer should do so in their presentation or poster. In an effort to make the abstracts as concise as possible and easy for meeting participants to read, the abstracts have been formatted such that they exclude references to papers, affiliations, and/or funding sources. Authors who wish to provide attendees with this information should do so in their presentation or poster.

Common abbreviations

Symposium: Perspectives on Synthetic Biology

Room: Salon C   10:30 am–12:00 pm

Chair(s): Benjamin Trump

Sponsored by Decision Analysis and Risk Specialty Group

Synthetic biology (SB) involves the alteration of individual living organisms and occasionally their larger populations. While products that are developed using SB approaches promise significant societal benefits, they also pose uncertain risks to human and environmental health, as well as value-based objections of human interactions with nature. Internationally, policymakers confront decisions on how stringently SB applications should be regulated and monitored. Governing SB is a complex task in which policymakers must balance uncertain economic, political, social, and health-related decision factors associated with SB use and development. These high-stakes decisions are often made in the absence of robust quantitative data or extensive field research, which makes it more difficult for policymakers to identify optimal options for governing SB applications. This symposia will include perspectives on the emerging trends in the field, and will include insight pertaining to risk and decision making under uncertainty for synthetic biology policy and governance moving forward.

T2-C.1  10:30 am  Published Literature and Communities of Practice for Synthetic Biology. Trump BD*, Cegan J, Poinsatte-Jones K, Wells E, Wood M, Rycroft T, Warner C, Linkov I; US Army Corps of Engineers

Abstract: Synthetic biology is a technology with growing applications in various veins of research. Likewise, it is being increasingly discussed within scholarly literature based upon emerging research trends, potential risks, and concerns pertaining to the governance of this emerging technology. However, no articles to date have sought to iteratively review such literature based upon trends in research and ongoing discussion by developers, policymakers, and academics across the world. This talk will introduce ongoing efforts to conduct such a bibliometric review of synthetic biology literature from 2000 through 2016, with specific discussion centered around synthetic biology research practice, product development, risk science, and concerns of domestic and international governance. Output from this review is twofold, including (i) descriptive statistics based upon research trends over this period, as well as (ii) leading veins of discussion within each of the four areas of inquiry noted above by leading experts in academia, government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.

T2-C.2  10:50 am  Secondary Risks of Vaccine . Cummings CL*; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Abstract: This experimental study evaluates the influence of secondary risks on behavioral intentions to vaccinate against dengue fever. Secondary risks are novel potential harms caused from interventions taken to reduce initial primary risks—in this case evaluating secondary risks of vaccines as a response to the primary health risk of dengue fever. Informed by Protection Motivation Theory, this study experimentally assesses the role of communication regarding vaccine characteristics including vaccine effectiveness, likelihood of vaccine side effects, and vaccine production methods—whether it is communicated that the vaccine is created using synthetic biology. Results demonstrate that secondary risk in the form of the likelihood of side effects has significant influence on vaccine intentions and also alters perceived vulnerability to the dengue fever virus itself. This carryover effect from a secondary risk to new evaluations of a primary risk has significant implications for health communication initiatives that aim to improve patient and public understanding of viruses and vaccines. Vaccine production method was found to have no effect on intention and threat appraisal of dengue fever. These results provide new theoretical implications that suggest a possible extension to the existing Protection Motivation Theory, and offer practical implications for the manner by which governments and health authorities craft health messages pertaining to vaccines.

T2-C.3  11:10 am  Comparative Review of the Environmental Effects of Biofuels. Wells E*, Trump BD, Linkov I; US Army Corps of Engineers - Risk and Decision Science Team

Abstract: Synthetic biology has the potential to revolutionize how science, technology, and product development benefit society. One notable instance of this includes biofuel research and development, where researchers are exploring how engineered algae can serve as a source of biofuel production in controlled settings. Despite the benefits that may be raised through the development of a potentially more efficient and reliable fuel source, engineered algae may also incur novel environmental risks. These risks are driven by the potential for novel genetic information to break containment and interact with the natural environment or proliferate in an unintentional and harmful manner. Therefore, future proposals for risk assessment of engineered algae should consider a variety of conventional and novel risk considerations, such as with horizontal gene transfer or the potential for engineered algae to proliferate in the environment alongside benefits such as with energy availability/efficacy improvements, as well as a reduction in land-use requirements for traditional feedstock options. This talk serves as one exploration of biofuel risk considerations, where engineered algal biofuel production will be comparatively reviewed against conventional options of corn and sugarcane feedstock, respectively. Ultimately, this talk will discuss how such a comparative approach can help elucidate areas of novel risk concern and help to qualitatively characterize such risks and benefits that algal biofuels may incur if such research is able to commercialize in the near future.

T2-C.4  11:30 am  High risk, high reward: the role of ambivalence in perceptions of nanotechnology and synthetic biology. Wirz CD*, Howell EL, Brossard D, Scheufele DA, Xenos MA; University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Meaningful differences are lost when measures of risk and benefit perceptions for new technologies are only considered separately. For example, someone who perceives high risks and low benefits associated with synthetic biology will view the technology very differently than another individual who has the same risk perception but also sees many potential benefits. Even though these two individuals perceive the same level of risk, the second person is ambivalent when seeing both potential risks and benefits with the technology. Generally understudied, an understanding of levels of ambivalence such as the one portrayed above among the general population could, however, give a more nuanced view of how individuals perceive risk related to new technologies, and in turn, would have important implications for how risks are managed and communicated. This study aims to better understand ambivalence in risk and benefit perceptions related to new technological issues. We analyze perceived societal risk and benefit and compare them to a measure of ambivalence for two technological advancements: synthetic biology and nanotechnology. Using these topics, we explored how different factors from past risk research (e.g. gender, trust) relate to risk and benefit perceptions and to different levels of ambivalence. We analyzed data from three nationally representative surveys in the U.S. from 2011-2014 to determine the stability of perceptions over time for each topic and to see what nuances including a measure of ambivalence can add beyond the separate measures of risk and benefit. Additionally, we compared these results to the perceptions of experts in both synthetic biology and nanotechnology to better understand how professional familiarity alters the levels of ambivalence. Preliminary results show differences when risk/benefit perceptions are analyzed together, with a fair amount of the public seeing both no risks or benefits from the technologies.

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