Responsible Research and Innovation

The Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) platform is developing major programmes on the ethical and regulatory aspects faced by SynBio, which includes real-time assessment and anticipation of research and innovation trajectories, deliberation and reflection, and collaborative development.

SYNBIOCHEM - Responsible Research Innovation

The RRI Group seeks to initiate early RRI dialogue, provide expertise, guidance and training in responsible governance of SynBio innovation, and foster public engagement and training for the research community.

Responsible Innovation – The Centre is fostering processes and dialogue to help researchers, industry, policymakers, NGOs and other stakeholders to anticipate the benefits and risks of SynBio early on in the scientific and innovation journey and feed this into decision-making, i.e. how to deliver products and processes that are commercially viable and societally useful.

Ethical and Social Factors – The Centre is analysing the ethical and social factors contributing to innovation with appropriate public engagement anticipating both the intended and the potential for unintended impacts in the use and commercial development of new discoveries.

The pathways to market will encounter issues at all stages of the SynBio process and require new and appropriate regulation and governance. Lessons taken from other areas of innovation (e.g. use of GMOs) demonstrate the importance of anticipating and addressing ethical and social issues relating to new technologies at an early stage, to ensure adequate public engagement, to anticipate issues, and to feed back into decision-making.

Governance and Policy – SynBio emergence raises global and national governance and regulatory issues aspect from discovery through proof of principle to market. The Centre will engage with regulatory and governance issues, including working with policy stakeholders, companies, researchers, non-profits, and others to deliberate on, and develop and implement, responsible approaches.

Events, Workshops, and Briefs

Responsible Research and Innovation – A Manchester Perspective. What is Responsible Research and Innovation? Barbara Ribeiro and Philip Shapira have written a short briefing paper that provides an overview of responsible research and innovation (RRI), with concise highlights about principles of responsibility, the emergence of RRI in the UK and Europe, the EPSRC AREA framework, and RRI in Manchester. | Read |

Living up to Expectations. Reflections on Responsible Research and Innovation in Synthetic Biology.  Responsible research and innovation (RRI) was among the topics considered at the Synthetic Biology UK 2017 Conference in Manchester. The conference’s first keynote speech was delivered by Andrew Balmer, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester and a member of the Responsible Research and Innovation Group at the Manchester Synthetic Biology Research Centre.  Dr Balmer presented work involving sociological investigation into the sensory perceptions of synthetic products in our everyday lives. The conference provided an opportunity for parallel panel discussion of the broader implications of synthetic biology and other emerging technologies. This panel, “RRI: Living up to expectations?” was held on November 28, 2017. Chaired by Rob Meckin, these group discussions featured presentations from Michael Reinsborough (University of the West of England), Lalitha Sundaram (University of Cambridge), and Ken Taylor (University of Newcastle). The panel reflected on the meaning of RRI and examined questions about roles and responsibilities for responsible research and innovation. For a brief, see: more

And, Nick Matthews, Doctoral Researcher with the RRI Group, also offers his perspectives on Synbio UK 2017 in “A review of the recent Synthetic Biology UK 2017 Conference hosted in Manchester on the 27th and 28th of November. It was my first conference as a Ph.D. student and it was, by all accounts, an interesting and enjoyable affair.” more

open-dayMenthol in Everyday Life: “Pop-Ups” Collect Data, Engage Publics. SYNBIOCHEM Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) group members ran three more “pop-up” stalls in Spring 2017. These stalls invited passers-by to interact with the taste, smell, sight and touch of menthol products. For a brief on the process and initial results, see: more

Responsible Research and Innovation: End to End Assessment Pop Up. Everyday practices involving menthol products formed the theme of a stall run by the SYNBIOCHEM Responsible Research and Innovation RRI Group at the Manchester Institute for Biotechnology Open Day on 18th November 2016.  Andy Balmer, Robert Meckin and Barbara Ribeiro ran the pop-up stall — and they have written up a SYNBIOCHEM RRI on what happened and what was learned, see: more

Women in Science WISE-Thumbwas the theme of a workshop and discussion facilitated by the SYNBIOCHEM RRI Group at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology on the 27th April, 2016. The workshop considered key challenges involved in bringing about equality for women within science, technology, engineering and medicine, with a focus on industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology. The workshop encouraged the discussion of personal experiences. Workshop participants reflected on some practical changes that participants and others could make to help decrease structural and everyday impediments to equality. WiSE 2016.

Selected Publications:

  • Aligning sustainability assessment with responsible research and innovation: Towards a framework for Constructive Sustainability Assessment. Nicholas E. Matthews, Laurence Stamford, and Philip Shapira.  Sustainable Production and Consumption, 2019, 20, 58-73. Open access.
  • Anticipating governance challenges in synthetic biology: Insights from biosynthetic menthol. Ribeiro, B., Shapira, P.  Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 2019, 139, 311-320. Open access.
  • The Values of Synthetic Biology: Researcher Views of Their Field and Participation in Public Engagement. Rose KM, Howell EL, Scheufele DA, Brossard D, Xenos MA, Shapira P, Youtie J, Kwon S.  BioScience, 68, 10, 782–791.
  • Synthetic Biology Research and Innovation Profile 2018: Publications and Patents. Philip Shapira and Seokbeom Kwon. Technical Report. University of Manchester, October 2018.  This report presents a profile of synthetic biology research and innovation using data on publications and patents worldwide and for the UK and selected benchmark countries. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.35315.78888
  • Introducing the dilemma of societal alignment for inclusive and responsibleresearch and innovation. Barbara Ribeiro, Lars Bengtsson, Paul Benneworth, Susanne Bührer, Elena Castro-Martínez, Meiken Hansen, Katharina Jarmai, Ralf Lindner, Julia Olmos-Peñuela, Cordula Ott, and Philip Shapira, Journal of Responsible Innovation, 2018, DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2018.1495033
  • Point of View: A transatlantic perspective on 20 emerging issues in biological engineering. Wintle B, Boehm C, Rhodes C,  Molloy J, Millett P, Adam L, Breitling R, Carlson R, Casagrande R, Dando M, Doubleday R, Drexler E, Edwards B, Ellis T, Evans N, Hammond R, Haseloff J, Kahl L, Kuiken T, Lichman B, Matthewman C, Napier J, Oheigeartaigh S, Patron N, Perello E, Shapira P, Tait J, Takano E, Sutherland W. eLIFE, 2017, DOI: Web link
  • Engaging the Senses, Understanding Publics: Research Methods, Science Engagement, and Synthetic Biology. Meckin R, Balmer A. Trends Biotechnol. 2017 Nov;35(11):1015-1017. Web link
  • Tracking the Emergence of Synthetic Biology. Philip Shapira, Seokbeom Kwon, & Jan Youtie (2017). Scientometrics. [Open Access]
  • Synthetic Biology: A Sociology of Changing Practices. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. Balmer, A. S., Bulpin, K., & Molyneux-Hodgson, S. (2016).10.1057/9781137495426. Publication link: 1ab2c01e-c2b0-4d14-ace4-69920f865395 | DOI:10.1057/9781137495426IMG_0691
  • Responsibility Navigator – Sally Randles and The Res-AGorA EU FP7 funded project have co-constructed a good-practice framework, the “Responsibility Navigator”, with practitioners and strategic decision-makers. The framework facilitates reflective processes involving multiple stakeholders and policy-makers with the generic aim of making EU research and innovation more responsible, responsive and sustainable (Kuhlmann et al.)

 Training and Awareness – The RRI Group assists the Centre to provide training for:

  1. Industry/academics to learn about and embed RRI in SynBio
  2. Academics/SMEs to understand the regulatory context and societal impact of SynBio
  3. Educating the next generation of SynBio researchers and managers in interdisciplinary and strategic skills
  4. Developing opportunities for the general public to access information and engage in deliberation about advances in SynBio

Select for RRI Group Members