Team:UNSW Australia/HP/Gold

Our Gold human practices focused on the intersection between sociological factors and our developing OMV platform technology. To investigate the intersection of these processes, and understand any potential points of future conflict, we consulted with experts in the field of sociology. Matthew Kearns is an ARC Future Fellow at UNSW in the School of Humanities and Languages who focuses on the intersection of science and social theory. Eben Kirksey is a senior lecturer and DECRA Fellow at UNSW, researching the boundaries of nature and culture, and the political influence on the imaginative process. Our consultation with these practiced academics provided our team with deep insight into the societal factors that can influence the success or demise of emerging scientific technologies. Thus, such factors were identified as essential for integration into our project planning, design and development. These factors included, but are not limited to: scientific communication and understanding, issues of ownership, responsibility of the product/technology, and regulation of the product/technology. We have already implemented steps for the consideration and integration of these subjects into our project. To help promote scientific communication and understanding, we held an event called Synthetic Biology Symposium: Perspectives and Progress. This event facilitated a very open, broad discussion on the range of contextual issues that are affected by the emergence of synthetic biology and new technologies in this field. Vice versa, we also discussed the effect of new synthetic biology technologies, such as ours, on broader society. We have come to understand that this is a dynamic relationship, and therefore needs to be engaged with from the outset of project development, as we have sought to do.

To further integrate the issues we have uncovered from the intersection of our OMV technology with society, we have put together a suggested protocol of Good Practice. This guide is designed for future teams (UNSW or otherwise) who hope to build upon our project. It aims to ensure the integration of sociological issues into project development in order to ensure successful implementation of the technology in the future.

This Good Practice protocol includes:

  • Explore varying vested interests

    o Find out exactly who would be interested in or affected by both your research and your desired product. Consider exactly why they are vested in your research, and how you can adapt your product to best address these needs. A number of different groups, including communities, industry partners, and collaborators may be interested for a variety of different reasons. The success of a product will be determined when most or all of these interests are considered.

  • Consult widely in the community

    o All products will exist in a social dimension, and their integration into specific sectors of society therefore should be assessed. The unique concerns of all social groups, including minorities, should be considered to improve targeted product design.

  • Investigate risks broadly and inventively

    o Thoroughly consider the ways in which your research may go awry when exposed to unexpected variables outside the laboratory. This should be conducted with not only human health in mind, but environmental and ecological risks.

  • Identify the aims of the research honestly

    o The motives and realities of technological developments should be honestly conveyed to stakeholders in the project. By accurately identifying why research is being undertaken, and creating clear implementation projections, a more realistic and open conversation about research is allowed.

  • Share progress with stakeholders

    o A dialogue model should be established, where the community has a voice in product design and implementation, with progress sharing integral to this. Consultation will enable consistent re-evaluation of research progress, risks, and barriers to implementation, ultimately resulting in the creation of a technology best suited to its purpose.