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Responding to Biotechnical Innovation with Warwick Centre for Education Studies and Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre

Date: Wednesday 25th January 2017

Time: 1 - 2.30pm

Venue: C1.11/15

Biotechnical innovations stemming from gene editing and synthetic biology will impact manufacturing, medicine and agriculture in coming years, perhaps on scale comparable with the 'digital revolution'.

How can researchers, policy makers, investors and publics learn from each other about these technologies and their implications?

What settings and forms of knowledge production and exchange are emerging?'

In this session Drs. Lauren Swiney (WISB), Achim Rosemann (CES) and Nick Lee (CES/WISB) will each give a brief presentation and invite discussion.


Dr. Lauren Swiney (WISB)

Topic: Understanding risk perceptions of biotechnology: cognitive science approaches and the challenges of improving the quality of public debate.

How can we improve the quality of public debate around the future of synthetic biology? Cognitive science approaches offer one answer to this question, providing a clear methodological framework in which to investigate how intuitions about the biological world may shape everyday judgements and decisions. I will describe my research program in this area, how it advances research on public perceptions of biotechnology, and how it might be leveraged to improve dialogue and discussion between relevant stakeholders.

Lauren Swiney is a cognitive scientist who studies how the evolved architecture of the human mind interacts with our environments to shape beliefs and behaviors. Her research has investigated the cognitive basis of schizophrenia, cross-cultural differences in moral reasoning, and the relationship between religious experience and religious belief. She received her PhD in 2014 from Queen’s University Belfast, and went on to do postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford. She is currently a Research Career Development Fellow at the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology center (WISB) and is affiliated with the Center for Education Studies.

Dr. Achim Rosemann (CES)

Topic: Human germ line editing in global context: Challenges and Needs from a UK perspective

Dr. Rosemann will discuss this Wellcome Trust funded project. It examines the ethical, social and regulatory challenges of the global expansion of research on the genetic modification of human gametes, embryos and germ lines from the perspective of UK scientists, policy makers, civil societal organizations and corporations. It examines challenges to human germ line editing (HGE) in three areas: 1) international regulatory variation, 2) the management of shared global risks, and 3) responsible research collaborations. The project combines semi-standardized in-depth interviews, documentary research, the organization of a multi-stakeholder workshop and video interviews. It addresses policy issues of immediate concern to the public sector, governmental bodies, civil societal groups, professional organizations and biotech corporations.
Dr. Rosemann has an established reputation in the ethics and social implications of Stem Cell technologies. As a CES Research Fellow he now addresses the rapidly emerging field of gene editing.

Dr. Nick Lee (CES/WISB)

Topic: Fostering Biosocial Imagination with the John Innes Centre and SAW Trust

Nick makes a case for diversifying the ecology of imagination around biotech innovation. He seeks out spaces and moments of shared perplexity and common ignorance amongst innovation stakeholders as a basis for co-learning about how to frame and respond to new possibilities. He will describe a current collaboration with the John Innes Centre ( and the Science, Art and Writing Trust (

Dr. Lee is Director of Research at CES and ELSA Lead at Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre. He researches social and educational responses to technology-driven change.