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Synthetic Biology

Sciencewise co-funded project 2009-2010


Synthetic Biology is a new area of research that, while it promises ground breaking applications, raises issues of potential societal concern. Find out more about the project background.

Impacts & Value

Synthetic biology strategy draws on Roadmap which directly used dialogue results – February 2016

•   In May 2013, a report was published of actions following the dialogue, demonstrating the wide range of impacts of the dialogue.

•   Joint BBSRC/EPSRC response to Dialogue report - BBSRC and EPSRC have written to everyone who contributed to the Synthetic Biology Dialogue report setting out the actions the research councils will take in response.

•   Providing impetus for Research Councils to take the public concerns about synthetic biology to regulators via discussions with the Chief Scientific Advisor.

•   A Parliamentary Scientific Committee meeting that focused on the dialogue was held in December 2010 in Westminster.

•   An embedding workshop for the synthetic biology community was held in Bristol in February 2011. The aim of the workshop was to further explore the messages from the dialogue, share best practice in public engagement with synthetic biology and begin to develop an action plan to embed dialogue into the business of synthetic biology research.

•   Catalysing and informing EPSRC’s work on responsible innovation by linking to the dialogue through the Societal Issues Panel.

•   BBSRC are reviewing their approach to ethics in grants as a direct result of the dialogue, which in turn has created opportunities for the public engagement team to collaborate with colleagues that work on research funding.


Project Status

1 page project summary published - March 2016

New summary of the dialogue released by BBSRC

Workshop on learning from the Synthetic Biology dialogue held in Bristol on 10 February

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee held a meeting on 'Synthetic Biology Dialogue: What is the Public Perspective?' on 7 December. Presentations available on Science in Parliament websiteRead an interview with one of the project participants

Read the latest project update in the newsletterDialogue events in London, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Llandudno now complete

Read the latest news coverage from the BBCWithout effective public enagagement there will be no synthetic biology in Europe - article by Colin Macilwain

What the public said

“In terms of policy making it's very important to get the views of the people who will be affected by this and the general public is one of those groups.”
Public Participant
“Before I came here, I had the attitude 'it’s not for me' and I was ignorant of the subject. As we went along, the session brought more and more lessons and ideas of how important this could be.”
Public Participant
“I’m glad it got to the ministers and the government and I’m glad that you know, that it has been discussed and hopefully that the public will be more informed.”
Public Participant

Delivered By

Joint Commissioning agent for the project, BBSRC is one of 7 Research Councils that work together as Research Councils UK (RCUK)

Joint commissioning agent for the project, EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences.

BMRB provides public policy research and insight to government and not-for-profit clients, and are the dialogue contractor.

Laura Grant Associates
The evaluation will be delivered by Laura Grant Associates, whose specialisms include public engagement with science and engineering and programme evaluation.