SBRC symposium: Synbio, metaphors and responsibility

On Monday this week (22 May, 2017) our Synthetic Biology Research Centre symposium on metaphors, synthetic biology and responsibility took place at the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham. The weather was marvellous and showed off University Park in all is spring glory. We started with a pre-conference dinner which, in a way, …

Making Science Public: 2016 blog round-up

This has been a weird and momentous year. For me personally and, even more so, for the world. In June this year we celebrated the almost end of the Making Science Public programme, which I directed between 2012 and 2016. At the end of September I retired, after working for more than 25 years at the University …

Origins of life; origins of synthetic biology

I was sitting on a train to London the other day reading a fascinating article on the early history of synthetic biology. In this post I just want to share some interesting insights I gleaned from that paper, as it’s always a good thing to know a bit more about the history of a field …

iGEM comes to Nottingham

I recently mentioned the ‘word’ iGEM when chatting with a ‘lay’ person about synthetic biology; whereupon the lay person looked at me quizzically and wondered what an iGEM was. Was it like an iPhone, but for gems? Somebody who overheard this exchange chipped in with a comment that made us all laugh. He said that …

CRISPR – and the race is on (again)

At the weekend I was reading an article in the Guardian about a team of Chinese scientists trying to use CRISPR/gene editing for the treatment of cancer; and I sighed. The article contained some of the standard and, I believe, quite worn-out tropes that pepper coverage of advances in biotechnology: playing God, designer babies…, as …

Assembling a synthetic human genome: Science and the politics of openness

There has recently been some commotion in the field of synthetic biology about a meeting held at Harvard on 10 May 2016 at which scientists discussed the creation of a synthetic human genome. The meeting was a closed, invitation-only meeting. In a field of science that takes pride in its openness and transparency, this created …

Synthetic Biology and Responsible Language Use: An anthology of blog posts

Over the last couple of years I have written quite a few blog posts on synthetic biology and responsible research and innovation, focusing in particular on the use of metaphors in both science and policy/politics. I have now assembled them, DIY fashion, into a little ‘booklet’. If anybody has the time and/or inclination to do …

Musings on language and life, with special reference to ‘programming’

This morning I opened the newspaper and read an article about a new language that lets researchers design novel biological circuits. I mumbled something about this over coffee and my husband said, oh but wasn’t that old hat, we all knew that DNA was a language, code etc. So what was new? I looked again …

Acceleration, autonomy and responsibility

In recent emails and meetings there has been a lot of talk about ‘acceleration’, both about the rhetorical use of acceleration in the context of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and about the reality of living in an accelerated academy. In this post I will examine ‘acceleration’ a bit further, especially in the context of …