A Reflection on the Notion of Cohabitation within and Beyond the Walls of Life Sciences

A Reflection on the Notion of Cohabitation within and Beyond the Walls of Life Sciences

Eleonore Pauwels (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jsesd.2012040101
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Abstract

Synthetic biology is at the front edge of a wave the National Research Council has termed the “New Biology” which involves bio, info, nano, and cognitive sciences. A lot of innovation will occur in the interstitial or “white” spaces between these disciplines, but this emerging multi-disciplinary science will provide challenges in term of social governance: there will likely be new challenges in managing ethical, social, and legal issues at the boundaries between disciplines. As an attempt to reflect on these challenges, a major workshop, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (SES-0925449) and organized in May 2010 by the Wilson Center and the University of Virginia, gathered experts from three emergent, boundary-crossing translational and transnational fields: STS, sustainability science and synthetic biology. Among other inputs, the workshop’s participants reached a significant and key conclusion. In the future, scientists will need effective, symmetric and balanced interdisciplinary collaborations about sustainable governance of emerging technologies that respond to environmental, societal and technological challenges in a comprehensive way. This requires a serious rethinking and re-organization of life sciences (bio-engineering) education.

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