Synthetic Biology: Public Perceptions of an Emergent Field

  • Rafael Pardo Avellaneda
  • Kristin Hagen
Part of the Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment book series (ETHICSSCI, volume 44)


We analyze some of the issues that synthetic biology raises for the social sciences within the “public perceptions of science” framework. The changing roles of public perceptions in policy making are described in relation with changes in the institutional and cultural contexts of science. We take a closer look at the available empirical evidence about public views on synthetic biology against the background of what is known about public perceptions of biotechnology more generally. Many vectors influence public attitudes to biotechnology, notably risk perceptions, tradeoffs between goals and means, ethical views, and trust in science and regulatory institutions. Attitudes are also associated with frames, symbols and worldviews. One of the central worldviews that affects subsets of the life sciences is the current vision of nature: many people are aware of problematic aspects of economic growth that makes intensive use of science and technology, and there is therefore sensitivity to scientific progress that further challenges the boundaries of “natural” processes and objects. Synthetic biology has components in potential conflict with the public’s preference for “naturalness” in many areas, although this is at present dormant due to the low salience of synthetic biology in the media and public.


Synthetic Biology Public Perception Scientific Area Public View Scientific Delegation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fundación BBVAMadridSpain
  2. 2.EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment GmbHBad Neuenahr-AhrweilerGermany

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