World Congress on Risk 2015
19-23 July, 2015, Singapore

Online Program

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

Wednesday 22-07-2015

Synthetic Biology: Assessing Risks, Prioritizing Sustainable Governance, and Engaging Stakeholders

Room: Creation   11:00–12:30

Chair(s): Christopher Cummings

1    Multidimensional risk profiling: A scenario-based evaluation of synthetic biology applications from a multidisciplinary expert Delphi study. Cummings C    (47)

Abstract: Synthetic biology’s diverse applications pose novel problems in assessing risks and benefits from both physical and societal dimensions. This study reports findings from a three-round expert Delphi study (N=45). The expert panel was comprised of chemists, molecular biologists, engineers, sociologists, toxicologist, environmental scientists, lawyers, STS scholars, and policy specialists. The study assessed four synthetic biology case studies; biomining, cyberplasm, de-extinction, and engineered plant microbes (e.g. nitrogen-fixing bacterial symbionts). Following the work of Latxague et al. (2007) and Suffert et al (2009), the panel assessed each case study from a newly founded multidimensional risk evaluation scheme (RES) that featured 10 components: (1) current degree of certainty of EHS risks, (2) potential for human health hazards, (3) potential for environmental hazards, (4) manageability of potential hazards (5), degree that hazards are irreversible (6), degree of benefits to human health, (7) perceived degree of benefits to the environment, (8) likelihood for commercial development within 15 years, (9) potential public concern, (10) associated confidence level of expert judgments. This paper discusses the RES for each of the cases and highlights needs for future scenario-based evaluations of synthetic biology applications.

2    A Delphi Study: Risk Data and Governance Needs for Environmental Applications of Synthetic Biology. Kuzma J    (43)

Abstract: Synthetic biology is a broad term that encompasses multiple types of new biotechnological methods, approaches, and end-points for development and deployment. As such, we developed 4 cases to cover a range of synthetic biology tools applied to products that would be deployed in the environment: nitrogen fixing bacteria on non-legumes, cyberplasm for detection and remediation, de-extinction for recently extinct species, and microbes for biomining minerals in situ. We used a combination of anticipatory governance, future studies, and expert elicitation in a 4-stage Delphi study with 48 subject matter experts (SME) who represented multiple disciplines and organizations. The first round included hour-long interviews focused on a set of risk governance questions for each case and in general, the secon involved a quantitative and ordinal ranking survey, the third included a face-to-face workshop with dialogue and systems-mapping exercises, and the fourth involved a final quantitative and ordinal ranking survey. We then used the quantitative and qualitative data-sets to develop influence maps for risk analysis and socio-economic data and information needs, as well as ideas for better governance systems to appropriately address the applications. In the presentation, the results will be discussed and compared across the four cases and SME groups. Recommendations for prioritizing research and oversight policy for each case and across cases will also be made. The project itself is a proof-of-concept of a possible way forward to address technological decision-making under high uncertainty and ambiguity. In closing, reflections on the research process itself and ways to integrate similar efforts into governance systems for synthetic biology will be offered.

3    Publics on the Outside: Entry Points for Discourse on SynBio. Berube D    (38)

Abstract: This paper will discuss public engagement in sustained DIYBio communities as well as within the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM). These two communities while not wholly representative of the totality of the synthetic biology research community do represent two sets of highly involved public stakeholders. How these sub-communities are engaged and how they engage the greater research community is the focus of this essay that examines what entry points are needed and available for broad based public participation in the research agenda of synthetic biology. Efforts to include the general public will demand generous entry points for a range of interests and concerns for many different sets of public stakeholders. For governance to be effective public input will be not only useful but also effective in broadening the research agenda to include public mores and values. Building entry points for broad based participation early in the process will maximize engagements while bootstrapping entry points after the research agenda is well underway tends to be polarizing and much less effective. Innovation ecosystems in the 21st century will need well designed stakeholder participation as we approach wicked and sticky problems in a growingly globalized scientific and technological community. This paper reviews the environment of synthetic biology focusing on two sub-communities and offers some suggestions.

4    Synthetic Biology and Governance – A Decision Analytic Model to Predict Government Regulatory Action. Trump B    (139)

Abstract: Synthetic biology is an emerging process of systems engineering that involves the purposeful alteration of living cells for a specific purpose. Where synthetic biology requires potentially new and unique measures to govern the risks associated with human and environmental health, policymakers for national governments are forced to make decisions regarding how stringently to litigate, regulate, and monitor various synthetic biology applications. This is a complex task with various stakeholders and sources of subjective and objective information to consider, where policymakers are required to balance economic, political, social, and scientific risks and benefits associated with the technology’s use. To better understand these issues, it has been suggested make use of social science methods to fully flesh out the proper risk management strategies to employ for the technology’s early stage use. One such method is Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), which is a subdivision of decision analysis that facilitates values trade-offs of complex and uncertain issues with various sources of information. We seek to review potential synthetic biology technological developments based upon interview data from an array of subject experts through use of MCDA, by which we assess a variety of policy outcomes for each application.

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