Ethics & Governance

A number of guidelines have been proposed in response to the ethics issues, including safety, raised by synthetic biology. Currently, the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules serves as the main document guiding NIH-funded synthetic biology research. These guidelines focus on DNA synthesis companies as the primary point of intervention; other guidelines focus on the researchers themselves. Given the large, international and interdisciplinary nature of the Sc2.0 project, with participants in academia, the commercial sector, and the DIY community, we felt that it was important to address ethics and policy issues in a systematic way across all sites, while remaining sensitive to local and national regulation. As such, we developed a Statement of Ethics and Governance in an effort to strike a balance between what individual researchers can do and the responsibilities others must assume, taking into account the details and risk/benefit analysis in the context of the Sc2.0 project, in particular. The Statement covers four areas, including a) Societal Benefit, b) Intellectual Property, c) Safety, and d) Governance. Importantly, this is a live document that will be revisited and revised as the science evolves.