Responsible Research and Innovation in Synthetic Biology (SYNENERGENE)
SYNENERGENE was a four-year mobilization and mutual learning action plan (MMLAP) supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme.
The project aimed to contribute to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in synthetic biology by establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synbio’s potential benefits and risks, and by exploring possibilities for its collaborative shaping on the basis of public participation.
The SYNENERGENE Approach
To address its objectives, SYNENERGENE (1) has a strong orientation towards the future and its shaping (‘open futures’), (2) involves citizens and societal stakeholders as real co-creators of RRI (‘from responsiveness to society to real societal shaping of science and technology’), (3) takes scientific research and development seriously as cultural activities crucial for RRI, (4) involves a wide range of stakeholders and various disciplines, (5) has a strong international dimension with a focus on global players in US but also including perspectives from the global South, and (6) makes use of online communication in many ways.
◾The organisational structure of the project reflects this orientation with its four thematic platforms and its two cross-cutting core dimensions. Each thematic platform represents an area that appears constitutive for the comtemporary debate on synthetic biology:
◾Discourse is shaped particularly by visions of the future that focus on socially relevant issues such as energy, health and the environment (Platform 1 on SynBio Futures).
◾There exists considerable public interest in genetic engineering and the life sciences that forms a basis for enhancing public engagement in research in a broad sense of the notion (Platform 2 on Public Involvement).
◾Scientific research and development are major cultural activities and societal and artistic imagination are important both to innovation and to our understanding of life (Platform 3 on Art and Culture).
◾Policy makers and other actors shape research and innovation and can work together to jointly identify and encompass societal needs and concerns (Platform 4 on Research and Policy).
◾The European approach to RRI in synthetic biology has raised interest in regions such as the US, Latin America and other world regions, opening space for intercontinental mutual learning processes and supporting the international visibility of European approaches (Core Dimension 1: International Dimension).
◾Finally, the Internet and online communication already plays an important role in shaping the discourse on new emerging technologies and bringing together various viewpoints (Core Dimension 2: (Online-) Communication and Dissemination).