The Royal Society, an independent UK body dedicated to promoting excellence in science, is seeking views on the emerging discipline of synthetic biology, to inform their work on policy in this area.Synthetic biology refers to the artificial construction of novel biological systems or organisms; building on genetic engineering techniques, some researchers are using synthetic genomics to create new organisms (see previous news story). As this field advances, there is considerable concern about the possible ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of such research; for example, the application of knowledge for the creation of harmful organisms that might be used in bioterrorism.
The Royal Society says that it is “keen to encourage a wider constructive discussion and debate about these issues” and has called for the views of a range of stakeholders on the potential ‘opportunities and uncertainties’ surrounding the field. Their Call for views document suggests possible categories for comment that include implications for research funding and regulation, human health and safety, the environment, education and training. The deadline for electronic submissions is 27 August 2007.