Public Understanding of Synthetic Biology

Author(s): Eleonore Pauwels

Publication: BioScience

Publication Date: 2013

Abstract: The objective of this article is not to draw exhaustive conclusions about public perceptions of synthetic biology but to provide readers with an integrated review of the findings from 4 years of quantitative and qualitative research conducted on this subject in the United States. US public perceptions toward synthetic biology are ambivalent. Members of the public show enthusiasm for synthetic biology applications when those applications are developed to address societal, medical, and sustainability needs, whereas engineering biology is seen as a potential concern if this research is done without investigations of its potential risks and long-term implications. Members of the public also support funding for research that leads to applications that actually meet social and sustainability goals. When it comes to oversight, their priorities are to promote transparency and accountability and to ensure a form of tailored governance in which diverse knowledge sources help address the uncertainty surrounding new technologies.

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