Synthetic biology is set to drive one of the most transformational revolutions in history. The potential benefits, ranging from improved human health, cleaner sources of chemicals and fuels, and the sequestering of pollution, are tremendous. However, there are also significant uncertainties, risks and challenges still to be overcome before that promise can be delivered upon.
At Synthace we have a strong focus on Responsible Innovation (RI). In particular, we seek to assess, prioritise and effectively manage the social, ethical and environmental impacts of our technologies, the risks and opportunities, both now and in the future.
Specifically, we use a framework that addresses the following:
- What is novel in what we are doing?
- What is the likely impact and who may it affect?
- What unusual risks are there and what steps are we taking to address them?
- What does an early warning look like?
- Who should we be in discussion with to broaden our perspective?
These questions are often highly challenging to answer fully when technology potentially has far-reaching impact, but we firmly believe that by thinking things through as thoroughly as possible, we can ensure that we develop our technology with proper consideration for the effects it may have on society and the environment.
As part of our commitment to innovate responsibly, Synthace scientists all adhere to the code of ethics for researchers drawn up by the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir David King.
The seven principles of the code are:
Rigour, honesty and integrity
1. Act with skill and care in all scientific work. Maintain up to date skills and assist their development in others.
2. Take steps to prevent corrupt practices and professional misconduct. Declare conflicts of interest.
3. Be alert to the ways in which research derives from and affects the work of other people, and respect the rights and reputations of others.
Respect for life, the law and the public good
4. Ensure that your work is lawful and justified.
5. Minimise and justify any adverse effect your work may have on people, animals and the natural environment.
Responsible communication: listening and informing
6. Seek to discuss the issues that science raises for society. Listen to the aspirations and concerns of others.
7. Do not knowingly mislead, or allow others to be misled, about scientific matters. Present and review scientific evidence, theory or interpretation honestly and accurately.