Advertisement

Synthetic Biology: Public Perceptions of an Emergent Field

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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.

References

  1. Acevedo-Rocha CG (2016) The synthetic nature of biology. In: Hagen K, Engelhard M, Toepfer G (eds) Ambivalences of creating life. Societal and philosophical dimensions of synthetic biology. Springer, Berlin, pp 9–53Google Scholar
  2. Allum N, Sturgis P, Tabourazi D, Brunton-Smitz I (2008) Science knowledge and attitudes across cultures: a meta-analysis. Public Underst Sci 17:35–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauer MW, Allum N, Miller S (2007) What can we learn from 25 years of PUS survey research? Liberating and expanding the agenda. Public Underst Sci 16:79–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bauer MW, Gaskell G (2002) Biotechnology. The making of a global controversy. CUP, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauer MW, Shukla R, Allum N (eds) (2012) The culture of science. How the public relates to science across the globe. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Ben-David J (1984) The scientist’s role in society. A comparative study. Chicago University Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  7. Birnbacher D (1999) Ethics and social science: what kind of cooperation? Ethical Theory Moral Pract 2:319–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bishop GF (2005) The illusion of public opinion. Fact and artifact in American public opinion polls. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Bodmer W (2010) The public understanding of science, the BA, the royal society and COPUS. Notes Rec R Soc. doi: 10.1098/rsnr.2010.0035 Google Scholar
  10. Bogner A, Menz W (2005) Alternative Rationalitäten? Technikbewertung durch Laien und Experten am Beispiel der Biomedizin. In: Bora A, Decker M, Grunwald A, Renn O (eds) Technik in einer fragilen Welt. Die Rolle der Technikfolgenabschätzung, edition sigma, Berlin, pp 383–391Google Scholar
  11. Boldt J, Müller O (2008) Newtons of the leaves of grass. Nat Biotechnol 26:387–389. doi: 10.1038/nbt0408-387 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bowler PJ, Morus IR (2005) Making modern science. A historical survey. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Calvert J, Martin P (2009) The role of social scientists in synthetic biology 10:201–204Google Scholar
  14. Check E (2006) Synthetic biologists try to calm fears. Nature 441:388–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Church G, Regis E (2012) Regenesis. How synthetic biology will reinvent nature and ourselves. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Cobb MD, Macoubrie J (2004) Public perceptions about nanotechnology: Risks, benefits and trust. J Nanoparticle Res 6:395–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. COM (Commission of the European Communities) (2001) European governance. A White Paper. COM (2001) 428 final, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  18. Daamen DDL, Van der Lans IA, Midden CJH (1990) Cognitive structures in the perception of modern technologies. Sci Technol Hum Values 15:202–225. doi: 10.1177/016224399001500203 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dabrock P (2009) Playing God? Synthetic biology as a theological and ethical challenge. Syst Synth Biol 3:47–54. doi: 10.1007/s11693-009-9028-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dragojlovic N, Einsiedel E (2013) Framing synthetic biology. Sci Commun 35:547–571. doi: 10.1177/1075547012470707 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Einsiedel E (2005) In the Public Eye: The Early Landscape of Nanotechnology among Canadian and US Publics. AZoNano Online J Nanotechnol 1:1–10Google Scholar
  22. Einsiedel E, Kamara MW, Boy D, et al. (2006) The coming of age of public participation. In: Gaskell G, Bauer MW (eds) Genomics and society: legal, ethical and social dimensions. Earthscan, London, pp 95–112Google Scholar
  23. ETC Group (2007) Extreme genetic engineering: an introduction to synthetic biology. OttawaGoogle Scholar
  24. European Commission (2010) Eurobarometer 73.1 on the Life Sciences and Biotechnology. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf. Accessed 24 July 2015
  25. European Commission (2011) towards responsible research and innovation in the information and communication technologies and security technologies fields. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. doi: 10.2777/58723
  26. European Commission (2012) Ethical and regulatory challenges to science and research policy at the global level. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. doi: 10.2777/35203
  27. Evans G, Durant J (1995) The relationship between knowledge and attitudes in the public understanding of science in Britain. Public Underst Sci 4:57–74. doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/4/1/004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ganguli-Mitra A, Schmidt M, Torgersen H, Deplazes A, Biller-Andorno N (2009) Of Newtons and heretics. Nat Biotechnol 27:321–322. doi: 10.1038/nbt0409-321 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Garfinkel MS, Endy D, Epstein GL, Friedman RM (2007) Synthetic genomics: options for governance. The J Craig Venter Institute, RockvilleGoogle Scholar
  30. Gaskell G, Allansdottir A, Allum N, Fischler C, Hampel J, Jackson J, Kronberger N, Mejlgaard N, Revuelta G, Schreiner C, Stares S, Torgersen H, Wagner W (2006) Europeans and biotechnology in 2005: patterns and trends. A report to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research. European Commission, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  31. Gaskell G, Stares S, Allansdottir A, Allum N, Castro P, Esmer Y, Fischler C, Jackson J, Kronberger N, Hampel J, Mejlgaard N, Quintanilha A, Rammer A, Revuelta G, Stoneman P, Torgersen H, Wagner W (2010) Europeans and biotechnology in 2010 winds of change? A report to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research. European Commission, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  32. Gigerenzer G (2007) Gut feelings. The intelligence of the unconscious. Penguin Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Gottweis H (2008) Participation and the new governance of life. Biosocieties 3:265–286. doi: 10.1017/S1745855208006194 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gschmeidler B, Seiringer A (2012) Knight in shining armour” or “Frankenstein’s creation”? The coverage of synthetic biology in German-language media. Public Underst Sci 21:163–173. doi: 10.1177/0963662511403876 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hård M, Jamison A (1988) The Intellectual Appropriation of Technology. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  36. Hart Research Associates (2008) Awareness of and attitudes toward nanotechnology and synthetic biology: a report of findings based on a national survey among adults. WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  37. Heise UK (2004) Science, Technology, and Postmodernism. In: Connor S (ed) Cambridge companion to postmodernism. CUP, Cambridge, pp 136–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hirschman AO (1970) Exit, voice, and loyalty. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  39. Holton G (1995) Einstein, history, and other passions. American Institute of Physics, WoodburyGoogle Scholar
  40. Holton G (1988) Thematic origins of scientific thought. Kepler to Einstein. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  41. Holton G (1978) The scientific imagination. Case studies. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  42. House of Lords, Select Committee on Science and Technology (2000) Science and society. The Stationery Office, LondonGoogle Scholar
  43. Hugues TP (2004) American genesis, 2nd edn. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  44. Joyce S, Mazza A-M, Kendall S (Rapporteurs), Committee on science, technology, and law; policy and global affairs; Board on life sciences; division on earth and life sciences; National Academy of Engineering; National Research Council (2013) Positioning synthetic biology to meet the challenges of the 21st century: summary report of a six academies symposium series. National Academies PressGoogle Scholar
  45. Kaiser M (2012) Commentary: looking for conflict and finding none? Public Underst Sci 21:188–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Keller EF (1995) Refiguring life. Metaphors of twentieth-century biology. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Kronberger N, Holtz P, Kerbe W, Strasser E, Wagner W (2009) Communicating synthetic biology: from the lab via the media to the broader public. Syst Synth Biol 3:19–26. doi: 10.1007/s11693-009-9031-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lassen J, Gjerris M, Sandøe P (2006) After Dolly—ethical limits to the use of biotechnology on farm animals. Theriogenology 65:992–1004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lentzos F, Cockerton C, Finlay S, Hamilton A, Zhang J, Rose N (2012) The societal impact of synthetic biology. In: Freemont PS, Kitney RI (eds) Synthetic biology: a primer. World Scientific, Singapore, pp 131–149Google Scholar
  50. Levitt M, Weiner K, Goodacre J (2005) Gene Week: a novel way of consulting the public. Public Underst Sci 14:67–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lévy-Leblond J (1992) About misunderstandings about misunderstandings. Public Underst Sci 1:17–21. doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/1/1/004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lowrie H, Tait J (2011) Guidelines for appropriate risk governance of synthetic biology. Int Risk Gov Counc Policy Br. http://www.irgc.org/IMG/pdf/irgc_SB_final_07jan_web.pdf. Accessed 10 Feb 2014
  53. Marris C (2014) The construction of imaginaries of the public as a threat to synthetic biology. Sci Cult 24:83–98Google Scholar
  54. Maurer SM, Lucas KV, Terrell S (2006) From understanding to action. Community-based options for improving safety and security in synthetic biology. University of California, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  55. Marx L (1988) The pilot and the passenger: essays on literature, technology, and culture in the United States. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  56. Marx L (2001) The domination of nature and the redefinition of progress. In: Marx L, Mazlish B (eds) Progress. Fact or illusion. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp 201–218Google Scholar
  57. Mazur A (1981) The dynamics of technical controversy. Communications Press Inc, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  58. Miller JD, Pardo R (2000) Civic scientific literacy and attitude to science and technology: a comparative analysis of the European Union, the United States, Japan, and Canada. In: Dierkes M, von Grote C (eds) Between understanding and trust: the public, science and technology. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, pp 131–156Google Scholar
  59. Miller JD, Pardo R, Niwa F (1997) Public perceptions of science and technology. A comparative study of the European Union, the United States, Japan, and Canada. Fundación BBV-Chicago Academy of Sciences, BilbaoGoogle Scholar
  60. Molewijk B, Stiggelbout AM, Otten W, Dupuis HM, Kievit J (2004) Empirical data and moral theory. A plea for integrated empirical ethics. Med Heal Care Philos 7:55–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nielsen AP, Lassen J, Sandøe P (2011) Public participation: democratic ideal or pragmatic tool? The cases of GM foods and functional foods. Public Underst Sci 20:163–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Norris P (1999) Critical citizens. Global support for democratic government. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nye JSJ, Zelikow PD, King DC (1997) Why people don’t trust government. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  64. Pardo R (2012) Worldviews, frames, trust and perceptions of stem cells across Europe. In: Bauer MW, Shukla R, Allum N (eds) The culture of science. How the public relates to science across the globe. Routledge, New York, pp 353–372Google Scholar
  65. Pardo R, Calvo F (2002) Attitudes toward science among the European public: a methodological analysis. Public Underst Sci 11:155–195. doi: 10.1177/096366202129084859 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pardo R, Calvo F (2006a) Mapping perceptions of science in end-of-century Europe. Sci Commun 28:3–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Pardo R, Calvo F (2006b) Are Europeans really antagonistic to biotech? Nat Biotechnol 24:393–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Pardo R, Calvo F (2008) Attitudes toward embryo research, worldviews, and the moral status of the embryo frame. Sci Commun 30:8–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Pardo R, Engelhard M, Hagen K, Jørgensen RB, Rehbinder E, Schnieke A, Szmulewicz M, Thiele F (2009) The role of means and goals in technology acceptance. A differentiated landscape of public perceptions of pharming. EMBO Rep 10:1069–1075. doi: 10.1038/embor.2009.208 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Pardo R, Midden C, Miller JD (2002) Attitudes toward biotechnology in the European Union. J Biotechnol 98:9–24Google Scholar
  71. Pauwels E (2009) Review of quantitative and qualitative studies on US public perceptions of synthetic biology. Syst Synth Biol 3:37–46. doi: 10.1007/s11693-009-9035-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pauwels E (2013) Public understanding of synthetic biology. Bioscience 63:79–89. doi: 10.1525/bio.2013.63.2.4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Pei L, Gaisser S, Schmidt M (2011) Synthetic biology in the view of European public funding organisations. Public Underst Sci 21:149–162. doi: 10.1177/0963662510393624 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Pepper D (1996) Modern environmentalism. Routledge, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Peters T (2006) Contributions from practical theology and ethics. In: Clayton P (ed) Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 372–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Pollack A (2010) Synthetic biology does not need regulation now, panel says. The New York times. Accessed 16 Dec 2010Google Scholar
  77. Priest SH, Bonfadelli H, Rusanen M (2003) The “trust gap” hypothesis: predicting support for biotechnology across national cultures as a function of trust in actors. Risk Anal 23:751–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Rehbinder E, Engelhard M, Hagen K, Jørgensen RB, Pardo-Avellaneda R, Schnieke A, Thiele F (2009) Pharming. Promises and risks of biopharmaceuticals derived from genetically modified plants and animals. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  79. Rowe G, Frewer LJ (2000) Public participation methods: a framework for evaluation. Sci Technol Hum Values 25:3–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Rowe G, Frewer LJ (2004) Evaluating public participation exercises: a research agenda. Sci Technol Hum Values 29:512–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Rowe G, Frewer LJ (2005) A typology of public engagement mechanisms. Sci Technol Hum Values 30:251–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Rowe G, Marsh R, Frewer LJ (2004) Evaluation of a deliberative conference. Sci Technol Human Values 29:88–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rozin P, Fischler C, Shields-Argelès C (2012) European and American perspectives on the meaning of natural. Appetite 59:448–455. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.06.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Siegrist M (2000) The influence of trust and perceptions of risks and benefits on the acceptance of gene technology. Risk Anal 20:195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Siipi H (2005) Naturalness, unnaturalness, and artifactuality in bioethical argumentation. University of Turku (Reports from the Department of Philosophy), TurkuGoogle Scholar
  86. Sjöberg L (2004) Principles of risk perception applied to gene technology. EMBO Rep 5:S47–S51. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7400258 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Slovic P (2000) The perception of risk. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  88. Sugarman J (2004) The future of empirical research in bioethics. J Law Med Ethics 32:226–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Tait J (2012) Adaptive governance of synthetic biology. EMBO Rep 13:579. doi: 10.1038/embor.2012.76 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Taylor SE (1981) The interface of cognitive and social psychology. In: Harvey J (ed) Cognition, social behavior, and the environment. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp 88–114Google Scholar
  91. Tepfer M (2005) How synthetic biology can avoid GMO-style conflicts. Nature 437:476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. The Royal Society of London (1985) The public understanding of science. The Royal Society, LondonGoogle Scholar
  93. Torgersen H (2009) Synthetic biology in society: learning from past experience? Syst Synth Biol 3:9–17. doi: 10.1007/s11693-009-9030-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Torgersen H, Hampel J (2012) Calling controversy: assessing synthetic biology’s conflict potential. Public Underst Sci 21:134–148. doi: 10.1177/0963662510389266 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Van den Belt H (2009) Playing god in frankenstein’s footsteps: synthetic biology and the meaning of life. Nanoethics 3:257–268. doi: 10.1007/s11569-009-0079-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Weir L, Selgelid MJ (2009) Professionalization as a governance strategy for synthetic biology. Syst Synth Biol 3:91–97. doi: 10.1007/s11693-009-9037-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. White L Jr (1967) The historical roots of our ecological crisis. Science 155(3767):1203–1207. doi: 10.1126/science.155.3767.1203 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Worsley P (1987) The new introducing sociology. Penguin Books, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  99. 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, LondonGoogle Scholar
  100. Zerubavel E (1997) Social mindscapes. An invitation to cognitive sociology. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© 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

Personalised recommendations