Maximising Impact

Application Domain Leader: Aditi Mankad

In Australia, the next five to ten years are likely to represent a burgeoning of synthetic biology (SynBio) research, destined for applications across diverse domains such as healthcare, environmental management and protection, agriculture, and various platforms within industrial biotechnology.

The early identification and consideration of social, institutional and ethical issues with respect to synthetic biology is key to enabling the successful integration and uptake of any new products or processes developed through SynBio. Furthermore, the need to understand community perspectives goes well beyond achieving a “social licence to operate”.

SynBio has the potential to forever revolutionise how societies think and interact with the world around them; and SynBio challenges generational beliefs about “acceptable” human-science interactions. Therefore, social research designed to maximise impact in the SynBio domain must consider a breadth of social issues at individual, group and institutional levels.

  • Social: includes psychological science and behavioural economics to examine community attitudes towards SynBio technologies and creating a national public dialogue; comprises public focus groups and national surveys with a focus on risk, decision-making, cognitive and behavioural implications of SynBio technologies
  • Ethical: covers broad societal aspects of ethical and moral considerations, and combines philosophical and applied ethical examinations of values and risk frameworks to promote an understanding of interactions between emerging technologies and society
  • Institutional: this research considers group-level stakeholder perspectives and social institutions’ roles and expectations around SynBio technologies; this pillar provides a key cross-FSP link with the Responsible Innovation Initiative around policy implications and governance of novel technologies
  • Legal: promotes beneficial development of SynBio by examining the issues of Intellectual Property, ownership, and benefit sharing implications for the Australian SynBio community; this pillar is central to establishing a legal platform for the freedom to operate for Australian SynBio scientists
  • Regulatory: explores the regulatory landscape for disruptive SynBio technologies, relevant regulatory pathways and global requirements informing the responsible development and deployment of SynBio technologies; this pillar considers International and National protocols, rules, frameworks and guidelines for engineering biology

Projects

  1. Mapping of industry, government and research stakeholders in SynBio science case studies
  2. Multidimensional understanding of public values, acceptance and risk-related decision-making
  3. Synthetic Biology and Intellectual Property in Australia
  4. Cultural diversity impacts on the development and use of novel biological systems
  5. Global Regulation of access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources for synthetic biology