Scientists’ and the Publics’ Views of Synthetic Biology

  • Emily L. HowellEmail author
  • Dietram A. Scheufele
  • Dominique Brossard
  • Michael A. Xenos
  • Seokbeom Kwon
  • Jan Youtie
  • Philip Shapira
Part of the Risk, Systems and Decisions book series (RSD)


In the past decade, advances in synthetic biology research and applications have raised important questions about the role of humans in shaping the natural world. A broad field combining multiple disciplines, synthetic biology involves the engineering of biological components and systems to create novel organisms or to change the makeup of existing organisms in novel ways. It has applications for medicine, energy, sustainability, security, and agriculture, among others. Although some argue that humans have always been changing nature (Kaebnick 2013; Kaebnick and Murray 2013), or that categorizing humans as separate from nature is misconceived, discussion surrounding synthetic biology reveals that many see synthetic biology as increasingly blurring the lines between natural and man-made (Boldt 2013; European Commission Directorate General for Health and Consumers 2010; Jennings 2013). Specific concerns differ depending on the particular field and applications, with a range of ecological, environmental, bio- and cybersecurity, health, regulatory, infrastructural, societal, and equity uncertainties raised (Cummings and Kuzma 2017; Goodman and Hessel 2013; Hoffman et al. 2017; Wintle et al. 2017).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily L. Howell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dietram A. Scheufele
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dominique Brossard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael A. Xenos
    • 1
  • Seokbeom Kwon
    • 3
  • Jan Youtie
    • 3
    • 4
  • Philip Shapira
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Life Sciences CommunicationUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Morgridge Institute for ResearchMadisonUSA
  3. 3.School of Public PolicyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  5. 5.Manchester Institute for Innovation Research, The University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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