Take your iGEM Project to the next level!
Partners: Rathenau Instituut & Wilson Center
Due date: May 30 2016
SYNENERGENE is excited to once again offer funded collaboration opportunities to iGEM teams to support advanced Human Practices work.
Is your iGEM team looking for an exciting integrated human practice challenge? Would you like to take your project to the next level by exploring it with experts, policymakers, and the public? And would you like to get support and funding throughout this entire process? If your answer is "yes", your team might be an excellent candidate for our Call for Proposals.
The Rathenau Instituut (based in The Netherlands) and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (based in the United States) are partners of SYNENERGENE, a four-year collaborative project funded by the European Commission, aimed at fostering Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in synthetic biology. In order to examine how SynBio can be optimally embedded in society, both SYNENERGENE partners aim to conduct "Real-Time Technology Assessments" of potential SynBio applications. To this end, we seek collaboration with iGEM teams, and we will focus on promising ideas for SynBio applications as developed in iGEM projects. Teams can conduct real-time technology assessment in the Integrated Human Practices component of their project, and will be supported by SYNENERGENE partners throughout the process. Teams can apply for support and funding by submitting to us proposals.
Rewards and support
Both in 2014 and 2015, eight iGEM teams received financial and academic support to develop exciting projects. For the last time, SYNENERGENE will once again offer this opportunity. Awarded teams will receive €5.000 each. Teams will be offered assistance in their work, providing them an excellent way to work on the integrated human practice dimension of their project through real-time technology assessment, and to enhance the overall quality of their project.
For this Call, we are especially looking for projects that will address two themes:
- The fight against mosquito borne diseases
- Solving conservation issues
Proposals relating to one or both of these themes are given special preference, but ideas for other themes are also more than welcome!
Theme 1: The Fight against Mosquito Borne Diseases
Mosquito borne diseases, such as Malaria, Dengue and recently Zika continue to be a serious global health threat. In a contribution to The Conversation, Andrew Maynard outlined three ways synthetic biology could 'annihilate Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases'. Next to techniques such as adding genetic switches and developing 'smart' vaccines, the recent developments in CRISPR offer a third approach: a Gene Drive to completely alter the dreaded mosquito species. The concept of the Gene Drive entails altering mosquitoes in the lab in such a way that they are unable to carry the disease-causing parasite, but when released also pass on this gene in a wild population with almost 100% certainty. In essence, it's a biological chain reaction. However, as Maynard remarks, "eliminating or reengineering a complete species is a big step to take, especially when the unintended consequences are far from clear". Can synthetic biology help in the struggle against mosquito borne diseases in a responsible manner?
Theme 2: Addressing Global Conservation Challenges
Increases in degraded lands and the emergence of fungal diseases threatening both plants and animals are impacting our ability to grow food, protect critical ecosystems and prevent extinction of species. Traditional conservation approaches have had only limited success in addressing these two global challenges. Recognizing both the need for new approaches, and the fact that the tools of synthetic biology can carry potential risks to nature and humans; what potential solutions could synbio bring to help address these challenges? How could you develop tools in a responsible manner that would affect positive change and be acceptable to conservation practitioners?
Each selected iGEM team will develop two different kinds of future scenarios relating to their project and its applications:
Application scenarios offer detailed and realistic descriptions of how SynBio applications could be fully deployed and embedded in society, including: design criteria for the products proposed, target manufacturers and users of the products, the needs and costs involved, legal issues of patenting, regulatory requirements, potential safety, social and ethical implications, and available or conceivable alternatives.
A techno-moral scenario is a story, artwork, or other tool to stimulate imagination, reflection and debate about ways in which SynBio applications may transform our society through wider impacts, including ethical, legal and social issues.
SYNENERGENE partners will take up the scenarios as a starting point for an interactive process of technology assessment, involving a variety of stakeholders and iGEM team members in workshop settings. The ultimate aim of these workshops is to develop socially robust agendas for SynBio innovation. The scenarios will also be used by SYNENERGENE partners as a tool in organizing public debates on the future of SynBio. Please expand the boxes below to read more about the scenarios that selected iGEM teams will deliver, and about the envisaged process of Real-Time Technology Assessment.
Scenarios (click to read more)
To develop application scenarios, you must identify and specify the practices and conditions in which particular SynBio applications envisaged by your team might be produced and used. What do these practices look like, who is involved in what role, and how will these practices be changed and affected by the new applications? Knowledge about the experiences and visions of actors involved in these practices is vital for the development of application scenarios. Curious? Check out the scenarios of Groningen 2014, Bielefeld-CeBiTec 2014, and the scenario by Edinburgh 2015, the winner of best integrated human practices!
While application scenarios focus on the concrete prospects and challenges of a specific SynBio application, "Techno-Moral Scenarios" highlight the wider ways in which a future SynBio application may transform society. Techno-moral scenarios explore the ways in which new technologies may challenge and shape what we want, how we relate to each other, and how we relate to the world. Thus, they invite audiences to imagine and evaluate ways in which particular SynBio applications might change our world, our ideas, values and ideals. For an example of fully developed techno-moral scenarios, consider this series of short stories ('vignettes') published by the Rathenau Instituut, one of which was contributed by the UCL 2012 team). Or perhaps even better, check out some of techno-moral vignettes of former teams, like Wageningen 2014, TU Eindhoven 2014 and Amsterdam 2015.
Real-Time Technology Assessment (click to read more)
Based on collaboration with selected iGEM teams, a process of real time technology assessment involves the following four steps:
- Selected iGEM teams develop application and techno-moral scenarios that will be taken up by SYNENERGENE partners as a starting point for stakeholder and public engagement with the future of synthetic biology.
- SYNENERGENE partners organize interactive processes of mutual learning and assessment, by involving scientists and engineers (including members of iGEM teams) in workshops with industry, end users, policy makers, and civil society groups. In these workshop discussions, the scenarios will be confronted with critical societal perspectives, thus providing valuable input to enhance the viability and success of ideas for SynBio innovation developed by iGEM teams.
- The input from the workshop discussions will be used by SYNENERGENE partners to further develop the scenarios into proposals for socially robust and responsible agendas for innovation. These agendas may serve as a source of inspiration for future research in iGEM and in the wider SynBio community. Therefore, these agendas will be promoted through the SYNENERGENE network, publications in scientific and professional journals, and in contacts with European and National Research Councils.
- Techno-moral scenarios will be used by SYNENERGENE partners as a tool in organizing public debates about potential futures for SynBio innovation in society.
Proposal and application
Interested iGEM teams may submit a proposal (2 pages, one thousand words maximum), including:
- A description of the intended SynBio project
- Potential applications of the project
- An indication of practices, actors, regulations and impacts that will be addressed in application and techno-moral scenarios.
Please send your proposal to synenergene (AT) igem (DOT) org by 30 May 2016.
If you need more information or have any questions, please contact synenergene (at) igem (dot) org