The art of trans-boundary governance: the case of synthetic biology

Abstract

Synthetic biology raises few, if any, social concerns that are distinctively new. Similar to many other convergent technologies, synthetic biology’s interface across various scientific communities and interests groups presents an incessant challenge to political and conceptual boundaries. However, the scale and intensity of these interfaces seem to necessitate a reflection over how corresponding governance capacities can be developed. This paper argues that, in addition to existing regulatory approaches, such capacities may be gained through the art of trans-boundary governance, which is not only attentive to the crossing and erosion of particular boundaries but also adept in keeping up with the dynamics among evolving networks of actors.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adrianantoandro E, Basu S, Karig DK, Weiss R (2006) Synthetic biology: new engineering rules for an emerging discipline. Mol Syst Biol 2:1–14

    Google Scholar 

  2. Balmer A, Martin P (2008) Synthetic biology: social and ethical challenges. An independent review commissioned by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Reviews/0806_synthetic_biology.pdf. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  3. BBSRC (2007) Networks in synthetic biology. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/2007/synthetic-biology.aspx. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  4. Beck U (2007 [2009]) World at risk (2009 English edition). Polity Press, London

  5. Benner SA, Sismour AM (2005) Synthetic biology. Nat Rev Genet 6:533–543

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Breggin L, Falkner R, Jaspers N, Pendergrass J, Porter R (2009) Securing the promise of nanotechnologies: towards transatlantic regulatory cooperation, Sept 2009. Report, Chatham House, London, UK

  7. Bruggren W, Chapman K, Keller B, Monticino M, Torday R (2010) Biological sciences. In: Frodeman R, Klein J, Mitcham C (eds) Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  8. Brunner RD, Steelman TA (2005) Beyond scientific management. In: Brunner RD, Steelman TA, Coe-Juell L, Cromley CM, Edwards CM, Tucker DW (eds) Adaptive governance: integrating science, policy and decision making. Columbia University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  9. Calvert J (2008) SB4.0—a social scientist’s perspective. Synthetic biology standards network. http://www.synbiostandards.ac.uk/comment.php?id=3. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  10. Economist (2012) Computing with soup. Economist, 3 Mar 2012. http://www.economist.com/node/21548488. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  11. EGE (The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission) (2009) Ethics of synthetic biology. Opinion No. 25, 17 Nov 2009. EGE, Brussels

  12. Falkner R, Breggin L, Jaspers N, Pendergrass J, Porter R (2009) Regulating nanomaterials: a transatlantic agenda, September 2009 Chatham House Briefing Paper. Chatham House, London

    Google Scholar 

  13. Falkner R, Vogler J, Stephan H (2011) International climate policy after Copenhagen: towards a ‘building blocks’ approach. In: Held D, Hervey A, Theros M (eds) The governance of climate change: science, politics and ethics. Polity Press, London

  14. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2010) Bioengineering: seventh report of session 2009–10, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence, 17 Mar 2010. Stationary Office Limited, London

  15. Kelle A (2007) Synthetic biology & biosecurity: awareness in Europe. Bradford Science and Technology Report No. 9, Nov 2007. IDC, Vienna

  16. Lentzos F (2009) Synthetic biology in the social context: the UK debate to date. BioSocieties 4(2–3):303–315

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Maurer SM, Lucas KV, Terrell S (2006) From understanding to action: community-based options for improving security and safety in synthetic biology, 15 Apr 2006, UC Berkeley. http://gspp.berkeley.edu/iths/UC%20White%20Paper.pdf. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  18. NEST (2005) Synthetic biology: applying engineering to biology, Report of a NEST High-Level Expert Group. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg

    Google Scholar 

  19. OECD and Royal Society (2010) Symposium on opportunities and challenges in the emerging field of synthetic biology: synthesis report. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/23/49/45144066.pdf. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  20. Osborne T (1997) On health and statecraft. In: Petersen A, Bunton R (eds) Foucault: health and medicine. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  21. Parens E, Johnston J, Moses J (2009) Ethical issues in synthetic biology: an overview of the debates, SB3.0, Jun 2009. Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Washington

  22. POST (UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) (2008) POSTNOTE: synthetic biology, Jan 2008, No 298. POST, London

  23. Rai A, Boyle J (2007) Synthetic biology: caught between property rights, the public domain and the commons. PLoS Biol 5(3):e58

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Roberts M (2012) Surgeons carry out first synthetic windpipe transplant. BBC News, 7 Jul 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14047670. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  25. Rodemeyer M (2009) New life, old bottles: regulating first-generation products of synthetic biology, SB2.0, Mar 2009. Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Washington

  26. Rose N (1999) Powers of freedom: reframing political thought. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  27. Royal Academy of Engineering (2009) Synthetic biology: scope, applications and implications. Royal Academy of Engineering, London

    Google Scholar 

  28. Slaughter A (2004) A new world order. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  29. Sorensen E, Torfing J (2009) Making governance networks effective and democratic through metagovernance. Public Adm 87(2):234–258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Terpstra JL, Best A, Abrams D, Moor G (2010) Interdisciplinary health sciences and health systems. In: Frodeman R, Klein J, Mitcham C (eds) Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  31. Torgersen H (2009) Synthetic biology in society: learning from past experience? Syst Synth Biol 3:9–17

    Google Scholar 

  32. Yang H-M (2010) Synthetic biology and the future of man. Presented at the international symposium on opportunities and challenges in the emerging field of synthetic biology. Washington DC, 9–10 Jul 2009

  33. Zhang JY (2011) The “National” and “Cosmos”: the emergence of synthetic biology in China. EMBO Rep 12(4):302–306

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. Zhang JY, Marris C, Rose N (2011) The transnational governance of synthetic biology: scientific uncertainty, cross-borderness and the ‘art’ of governance. BIOS Working Paper, BIOS, London School of Economics and Political Science, London

    Google Scholar 

Websites

  1. iGEM (2010) ‘Health&Medicine’ Team Tracks. http://igem.org/Team_Tracks?year=2010. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

  2. iGEM (2011) ‘Health&Medicine’ Team Tracks. http://igem.org/Team_Tracks?year=2011. Accessed 25 Jun 2012

Download references

Acknowledgments

This paper draws on the author’s research funded by the Royal Society Science Policy Centre, carried out at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The author wishes to thank Professor Nikolas Rose and Dr. Claire Marris for their comments on previous drafts of this work.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joy Y. Zhang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Zhang, J.Y. The art of trans-boundary governance: the case of synthetic biology. Syst Synth Biol 7, 107–114 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11693-012-9097-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Art of governance
  • Synthetic biology
  • Boundary
  • Global governance