Co-evolution of physical and social sciences in synthetic biology

Benjamin D Trump, Jeffrey Cegan, Emily Wells, Kelsey Poinsatte-Jones, Taylor Rycroft, Christopher Warner, David Martin, Edward Perkins, Matthew D Wood, Igor Linkov
Critical Reviews in Biotechnology 2019 February 6, : 1-15
Emerging technologies research often covers various perspectives in disciplines and research areas ranging from hard sciences, engineering, policymaking, and sociology. However, the interrelationship between these different disciplinary domains, particularly the physical and social sciences, often occurs many years after a technology has matured and moved towards commercialization. Synthetic biology may serve an exception to this idea, where, since 2000, the physical and the social sciences communities have increasingly framed their research in response to various perspectives in biological engineering, risk assessment needs, governance challenges, and the social implications that the technology may incur. This paper reviews a broad collection of synthetic biology literature from 2000-2016, and demonstrates how the co-development of physical and social science communities has grown throughout synthetic biology's earliest stages of development. Further, this paper indicates that future co-development of synthetic biology scholarship will assist with significant challenges of the technology's risk assessment, governance, and public engagement needs, where an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to foster sustainable, risk-informed, and societally beneficial technological advances moving forward.

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