Synthetic Biology: media portrayal and public understanding

Synthetic biology is a rapidly evolving field that has the potential to change how we live and understand the world. A trend in current technology assessment is the idea that it should include public involvement. This seems particularly true in the case of synthetic biology, given its relatively low language codification and potential to affect public interest.

There is, however, a risk that scientists spin their results in order to further the field. This, coupled with ethicists focussing on speculative ethics and media focussing on drama, can put the public and policy makers at a disadvantage: Reducing their ability to properly assess synthetic biology and its possible applications. Therefore, the way the public is addressed and the way that synthetic biology is presented and perceived are key factors.


This project focuses on synthetic biology outreach and the way it is popularized by scientists. The aim is:

  • To suggest conceptual tools for a sober and grounded understanding of synthetic biology
  • To suggest tools for communicating synthetic biology to the public in a way that relates to common moral intuitions about life.

Time table

  • 2014 – 2015


Mirko Ancillotti, MA

Stefan Eriksson, Associate Professor of Research Ethics