Skip to main content

Synthetic Biology and Public Perceptions: Communication and Engagement

, Boston, MA

What is life? Can and should scientists and engineers construct new forms of life? Synthetic biology technologies may raise unique questions about inherent benefits and risks that are just beginning to be addressed. As this multi-disciplinary field rapidly advances, policy makers and thought leaders will be called upon to make decisions and provide guidance to a public grappling with potential implications.

Recognizing that public concern about science and technology often relates to political, ethical or religious factors, this symposium brings together a panel representing the science, policy and religious communities to discuss developments such as microbial production of biodiesel fuel, the synthesis of polymers capable of Darwinian evolution, and “do-it-yourself” biology. Speakers considered the questions and concerns raised by these developments and discussed in detail strategies for communicating about synthetic biology with their respective public audiences.


Peyton West, AAAS Center for Science, Policy, and Society Programs


Tiffany Lohwater, AAAS Office of Public Programs


  • George Church
    Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

  • Eleonore Pauwels
    Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

  • James Haag
    Lecturer in Philosophy, Suffolk University