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19th International Symposium, ‘The implications and impacts of a responsibility agenda for synthetic biology’

PEALS welcomed 28 participants from around the UK and Europe to the 19th International Symposium, held on September 20th and 21st, 2018 in the Event Space, Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle University.

The central theme for the presentations and discussion was the role played by considerations of responsibility in biotechnological research and its applications, with particular reference to synthetic biology.  Speakers and participants engaged with the topic through the discussion of a number of different projects and conceptual approaches.

The symposium was opened by Professor John Goddard OBE, whose presentation on the ‘civic university’ set innovation in a social context and Professor Neil Wipat who gave a view of how a practising synthetic biologist engages with societal issues.  Subsequent presentations examined themes raised in the introductory presentations and a common point of interest was the interaction between scientists and social scientists, with a desire to move towards more co-productive research collaborations.  The event ended with a reflection on the two days’ discussion by Professor Lionel Clarke OBE.

Speakers and other participants were drawn from a range of academic disciplines including biochemistry, economics, ethics, molecular genetics, law, philosophy, politics, synthetic biology, and science and technology studies.  Delegates were from a range of jurisdictions and cultural experiences, including Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, the USA, and the UK.  A range of regulatory, policy and practice backgrounds were also represented, including participants from the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, the UK Synthetic Biology Leadership Council and the UK Department for International Trade in addition to commercial biotechnology companies.

The symposium was a key component in the Responsible Innovation work strand of the EPSRC-funded ‘Synthetic Portabolomics’ programme of research led by Professor Natalio Krasnogor, School of Computer Science, Newcastle University.

Many participants have already commented on their enjoyment of the stimulating debates and fresh insights on old and new problems that resulted from the interdisciplinary nature of the event.

PEALS thanks Newcastle University’s Conference Support Fund and the Synthetic Portabolomics programme, EPSRC Grant Nos. EP/J004111/ 2, EP/L001489/2, and EP/N031962/1, for supporting the symposium.

19th International Symposium programme (PDF: 1MB) including abstracts and biographies. 

published on: 22 October 2018