Tag Archives: David Rejeski

Societal implications of emerging technologies (a Washington, D.C. event)

Here are the details about this book launch event,

Assessing the Societal Implications of Emerging Technologies: Book Launch

Please join us for the launch of Evan Michelson’s new book, Assessing the Societal Implications of Emerging Technologies: Anticipatory Governance in Action, which offers tangible insights into strategies deployed by well-known, high-profile organizations involved in anticipating the societal and policy implications of nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

The book lays out one of the first actionable roadmaps that interested stakeholders can follow when working toward institutionalizing anticipatory governance practices throughout the policymaking process.

David Rejeski, director of the Science & Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center, will lead the discussion. A light lunch will be served at noon.

For more information, please visit:
https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138123434

Speakers:

Evan Michelson, author, Assessing the Societal Implications of Emerging Technologies

David Rejeski, Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program

Thursday, June 9th, 2016
12:00pm – 1:30pm

5th Floor Conference Room

Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

If planning to attend in person, you can RSVP here.

Unfortunately, there is no indication as to whether or not the event will be livestreamed or webcast at a later date.

I have found a little more information about the author, Evan Michelson on the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation website,

Evan S. Michelson, Ph.D. is a Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Dr. Michelson is responsible for overseeing the Foundation’s Energy and Environment Program, which seeks to advance understanding about the economic, environmental, security, and policy tradeoffs associated with the increased deployment of low- and no-carbon resources and technologies across the energy system. He also manages the Foundation’s grantmaking to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (IV), an international astrophysics research collaboration focused on exploring the evolution and structure of the universe, the formation of stars and galaxies, the history of the Milky Way, and the science behind dark matter.

Enjoy!

Is safety all it’s cracked up to be? (three items about risk)

I have three items for this piece, two about human risk assessment and nanotechnology and one questioning the drive towards safety.

Proposal for a nanotechnology and human risk assessment scheme

A couple of academics, one from the Université de Montréal (Canada) and the other from the Université de Rennes (France) have proposed what they declare is a “well-developed human risk assessment (HRA) that applies to NPs (nanoparticles).” It’s a bold statement to be found in this paper (Note: There are some oddities about this paper’s citation),

Human Risk Assessment and Its Application to
Nanotechnology: A Challenge for Assessors (PDF) by Claude Emond and Luc Multigner.  2015 J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 617 012039 http://iopscience.iop.org/1742-6596/617/1/01203

The first oddity is that the second author on the PDF version of the paper, Luc Multigner, is not listed on the paper’s page on the Journal of Physics website. where T N Britos is listed as the second author. Next, there’s the DOI (digital object identifier) which isn’t specified anywhere I can find it. There is something that looks like a DOI in the links to both the paper’s webpage and its PDF: 10.1088/1742-6596/617/1/012039.

Now on to the paper.

The authors are proposing that a methodology designed in 1983 (found in a document known as the Red Book) by the US National Research Council be adapted for use in nanotechnology human risk assessment,

… The approach divided the HRA into four different characterization steps: Source Identification Characterization (SIC), Exposure Assessment Characterization (EAC), Hazard Assessment Characterization (HAC) and Risk Assessment Characterization (RAC) [8, 9] (Figure 1).

Interspecies Variability Factors in Human Health Risk Assessment

This item comes from Lynn Bergeson’s Oct. 2, 2015 posting on Nanotechnology Now,

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) posted a new publication in its Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials, Preliminary Guidance Notes on Nanomaterials: Interspecies Variability Factors in Human Health Risk Assessment. See http://www.oecd.org/officialdocuments/publicdisplaydocumentpdf/?cote=env/jm/mono(2015)31&doclanguage=en The report includes the following recommendations for further work:

– The Expert Opinion prepared in support of the project noted a general lack of availability of data from repeated-dose toxicity studies in different species. In particular, studies of extended duration such as 90-day subchronic or chronic toxicity studies were only available for a minor part of the analyzed nanomaterials and routes of exposures. …

– Physiologically-based models are receiving increased attention in human health risk assessment. With the available data on lung burden following inhalation exposure to nanomaterials, a useful comparison of measured vs. predicted data has been possible in this project for rats, suggesting that further refinement of the multiple path particle dosimetry (MPPD) model is required before it can be applied to (sub)chronic scenarios. Unfortunately, corresponding information has not been available for humans, preventing comparisons between rats and humans.

This document is no. 58 in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials. All of these documents are freely available.

Why Safety Can Be Dangerous

The third and final item in this post is an announcement for an event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. From an Oct. 14, 2015 email,

Why Safety Can Be Dangerous: A Conversation with Gregory Ip

The Science & Technology Innovation Program is proud to welcome journalist Gregory Ip to discuss his latest book, Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe (Little, Brown). In Foolproof, Ip looks at how we often force new, unexpected risks to develop in unexpected places as we seek to minimize risk from crises like financial downturns and natural disasters.

More information about the Science & Technology Innovation Program’s Public Engagement in an Age of Complexity can be found here: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/public-engagement-age-complexity

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
10:00am – 11:00am

6th Floor Auditorium

Directions

Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Phone: 202.691.4000

The Foolproof event page provides more information,

In Foolproof, Ip looks at how we often force new, unexpected risks to develop in unexpected places as we seek to minimize risk from crises like financial downturns and natural disasters. This is a phenomena only likely to increase as our financial systems and cities become more complex and interconnected, but Ip concludes that these crises actually benefit society.

Final comments

We’re always engaged in a balancing act between risk and safety. How we resolve that conundrum can have huge and unexpected impacts on our future.

As an example of unintended consequences, I live in a region with many forests and a very successful fire suppression programme. Risk from forest fires has been reduced at the cost of building up  so much debris on the forest floor that forest fires which do occur are more devastating than if theyhad regularly diminished the debris.

Funding trends for US synthetic biology efforts

Less than 1% of total US federal funding for synthetic biology is dedicated to risk research according to a Sept. 16, 2015 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars news release on EurekAlert,

A new analysis by the Synthetic Biology Project at the Wilson Center finds the Defense Department and its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) fund much of the U.S. government’s research in synthetic biology, with less than 1 percent of total federal funding going to risk research.

The report, U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research, finds that between 2008 and 2014, the United States invested approximately $820 million dollars in synthetic biology research. In that time period, the Defense Department became a key funder of synthetic biology research. DARPA’s investments, for example, increased from near zero in 2010 to more than $100 million in 2014 – more than three times the amount spent by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Wilson Center news release can also be found here on the Center’s report publication page where it goes on to provide more detail and where you can download the report,

The report, U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research, finds that between 2008 and 2014, the United States invested approximately $820 million dollars in synthetic biology research. In that time period, the Defense Department became a key funder of synthetic biology research. DARPA’s investments, for example, increased from near zero in 2010 to more than $100 million in 2014 – more than three times the amount spent by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“The increase in DARPA research spending comes as NSF is winding down its initial investment in the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, or SynBERC,” says Dr. Todd Kuiken, senior program associate with the project. “After the SynBERC funding ends next year, it is unclear if there will be a dedicated synthetic biology research program outside of the Pentagon. There is also little investment addressing potential risks and ethical issues, which can affect public acceptance and market growth as the field advances.”

The new study found that less than one percent of the total U.S. funding is focused on synthetic biology risk research and approximately one percent addresses ethical, legal, and social issues.

Internationally, research funding is increasing. Last year, research investments by the European Commission and research agencies in the United Kingdom exceeded non-defense spending in the United States, the report finds.

The research spending comes at a time of growing interest in synthetic biology, particularly surrounding the potential presented by new gene-editing techniques. Recent research by the industry group SynBioBeta indicated that, so far in 2015, synthetic biology companies raised half a billion dollars – more than the total investments in 2013 and 2014 combined.

In a separate Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Sept. 16, 2015 announcement about the report, an upcoming event notice was included,

Save the date: On Oct. 7, 2015, the Synthetic Biology Project will be releasing a new report on synthetic biology and federal regulations. More details will be forthcoming, but the report release will include a noon event [EST] at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

I haven’t been able to find any more information about this proposed report launch but you may want to check the Synthetic Biology Project website for details as they become available. ETA Oct. 1, 2015: The new report titled: Leveraging Synthetic Biology’s Promise and Managing Potential Risk: Are We Getting It Right? will be launched on Oct. 15, 2015 according to an Oct. 1, 2015 notice,

As more applications based on synthetic biology come to market, are the existing federal regulations adequate to address the risks posed by this emerging technology?

Please join us for the release of our new report, Leveraging Synthetic Biology’s Promise and Managing Potential Risk: Are We Getting It Right? Panelists will discuss how synthetic biology applications would be regulated by the U.S. Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, how this would affect the market pathway of these applications and whether the existing framework will protect human health and the environment.

A light lunch will be served.

Speakers

Lynn Bergeson, report author; Managing Partner, Bergeson & Campbell

David Rejeski, Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program

Thursday,October 15th, 2015
12:00pm – 2:00pm

6th Floor Board Room

Directions

Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Phone: 202.691.4000

RSVP NOW »

3D printing and the environment (a panel discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), and new developments with metal 3D printing

I have combined two 3D printing items here. The first is an announcement from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars about an upcoming panel discussion (from the Nov. 25, 2013 announcement),

The Environmental Impacts of 3D Printing

3D printing allows for cheaper and quicker production of complex and novel items. The technology has been used by industry to build prototypes and specialized parts since the 1980s, but interest in desktop applications of the technology has increased in recent years as prices for the machines have dropped.

Proponents of the technology often cite the environmental benefits of 3D printing, though fundamental questions remain: What technologies are involved in 3D printing? How efficient are these technologies in the use of materials and energy? Does the design of printed objects reduce end-of-life options? Does more localized production reduce the carbon footprint? Will simplicity and ubiquity cause us to overprint things, just as we do with paper?

Robert Olson explored some of these questions in his article “3D Printing: A Boon or a Bane?” in the November/December 2013 issue of the Environmental Forum. The article discusses the enormous potential of 3D printing and examines the paucity of research on the environmental impacts of the technology.

Join us at the Wilson Center on Dec. 13 for an event looking at the growth of additive manufacturing and the potential environmental implications of the technology.

When: Dec. 13, 2013 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. EST

Who:

  • Robert Olson, Senior Fellow, Institute for Alternative Futures
  • David Rejeski, Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program, Wilson Center
  • John Pendergrass, Senior Attorney & Director of the State Center, Environmental Law Institute

There is more information on the Event page.

While this panel discussion is likely to be focused on polymer 3D printing, there are other developments in the 3D printing world as per a Nov. 26, 2013 Michigan Technological University (MTU) news release (also on EurekAlert, Dec. 2, 2013),

OK, so maybe you aren’t interested in making your own toys, cellphone cases, or glow-in-the-dark Christmas decorations. How about a brake drum?

Until now, 3D printing has been a polymer affair, with most people in the maker community using the machines to make all manner of plastic consumer goods, from tent stakes to chess sets. A new low-cost 3D printer developed by Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce and his team could add hammers to that list. The detailed plans, software and firmware are all freely available and open-source, meaning anyone can use them to make their own metal 3D printer.

This open access technology is being made accessible to the maker community, preferably to the highly skilled and experienced members, (from the news release),

Pearce is the first to admit that his new printer is a work in progress. So far, the products he and his team have produced are no more intricate than a sprocket. But that’s because the technology is so raw. “Similar to the incredible churn in innovation witnessed with open-sourcing of the first RepRap plastic 3D printers, I anticipate rapid progress when the maker community gets their hands on it,” says Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering. “Within a month, somebody will make one that’s better than ours, I guarantee it.”

Using under $1,500 worth of materials, including a small commercial MIG welder and an open-source microcontroller, Pearce’s team built a 3D metal printer than can lay down thin layers of steel to form complex geometric objects. Commercial metal printers are available, but they cost over half a million dollars.

His make-it-yourself metal printer is less expensive than off-the-shelf commercial plastic 3D printers and is affordable enough for home use, he said. However, because of safety concerns, Pearce suggests that for now it would be better off in the hands of a shop, garage or skilled DIYer, since it requires more safety gear and fire protection equipment than the typical plastic 3D printer.

While metal 3D printing opens new vistas, it also raises anew the specter of homemade firearms. Some people have already made guns with both commercial metal and plastic 3D printers, with mixed results. While Pearce admits to some sleepless nights as they developed the metal printer, he also believes that the good to come from all types of distributed manufacturing with 3D printing will far outweigh the dangers.

In previous work, his group has already shown that making products at home with a 3D printer is cheaper for the average American and that printing goods at home is greener than buying commercial goods.

In particular, expanded 3D printing would benefit people in the developing world, who have limited access to manufactured goods, and researchers, who can radically cut costs of scientific equipment to further their science, Pearce said. “Small and medium-sized enterprises would be able to build parts and equipment quickly and easily using downloadable, free and open-source designs, which could revolutionize the economy for the benefit of the many.”

“I really don’t know if we are mature enough to handle it,” he added cautiously, “but I think that with open-source approach, we are within reach of a Star Trek-like, post-scarcity society, in which ‘replicators’ can create a vast array of objects on demand, resulting in wealth for everyone at very little cost. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to make almost anything.”

There is a paper and here’s a citation,of sorts,

“A Low-Cost, Open-Source Metal 3-D Printer,” to be published Nov. 25 in IEEE Access (DOI: 10.1109/ACCESS.2013.2293018)

Unfortunately I’ve not been able to locate this paper on IEEE {Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers]  Access.

Mar. 20, 2013 live webcast about synthetic biology and nanotechnology poll

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has an event which you can attend in person if you’re in Washington, DC or can attend from elsewhere via a webcast. Here’s why you might want to attend,

Beginning in 2006, the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Peter D. Hart Research Associates have conducted periodic national telephone surveys to gauge the public awareness of and attitudes towards synthetic biology and nanotechnology.

In our latest survey, conducted in January 2013, three-fourths of respondents say they have heard little or nothing about synthetic biology, a level consistent with that measured in 2010. While initial impressions about the science are largely undefined, these feelings do not necessarily become more positive as respondents learn more. The public has mixed reactions to specific synthetic biology applications, and almost one-third of respondents favor a ban “on synthetic biology research until we better understand its implications and risks,” while 61 percent think the science should move forward.

The survey also found that, despite outreach efforts, 68 percent of respondents have heard little or nothing about nanotechnology, which indicates no change in awareness since 2009.

Please join us Wednesday,March 20, 2013, at noon to discuss the complete results from the latest poll.

Here are the specifics,

What:

Results of the 2013 national public opinion poll on synthetic biology and nanotechnology

When:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013, Noon– 1:30 PM (Light lunch available at 11:30 am) [The times listed are EDT, for those of us on the West Coast of North America,  the webcast starts at 9 am]

 Who:

David Rejeski, Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program

Abigail Davenport, Senior Vice President, Peter D. Hart Research Associates

 Where:

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
5th Floor Conference Room,
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC

RSVPs and miscellaneous,

A light lunch will be served beginning at 11:30 am.

You must register to attend the event. To RSVP, please visit:

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/rsvp?eid=26431&pid=116

This event will be Webcast LIVE at

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/awareness-and-impressions-synthetic-biology-results-the-2013-poll

There is no RSVP required to view the webcast.

For directions, please visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/directions

Media planning to cover the event should contact Aaron Lovell at (202) 691-4320 or at aaron.lovell@wilsoncenter.org

To learn more about the Synthetic Biology Project, please visit: http://www.synbioproject.org

Governance/regulation of synthetic biology

The Synthetic Biology Project folks at the Woodrow Wilson Center have created a Synthetic Biology Scorecard and I think before discussing the scorecard I’ll provide a little background information about synthetic biology and what is being scored.

From the About page on the Synthetic Biology Project website,

Synthetic biology involves making new genetic code, also known as DNA, which does not already exist in nature.

In May 2010, J. Craig Venter announced that he had created the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell (my May 21, 2010 post) and this set off some alarm bells. From the Feb. 8, 2012 news item on Physorg.com,

On May 20, 2010, scientists at the J.C. Venter Institute unveiled a bacterial cell controlled by a synthetic genome. That same day, the president asked the Commission [Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues] to undertake “a study of the implications of this scientific milestone . . . [and] consider the potential medical, environmental, security, and other benefits of this field of research, as well as any potential health, security, or other risks.”

Now we get to the scorecard (from the news item),

More than a year has passed since the release of the Commission’s report. What progress has been made? The Scorecard seeks to answer that question: In addition to tracking the progress of various federal and non-federal initiatives, the website encourages broad participation in achieving the goals set forth by the Commission and invites public comment on the recommendations and implementation efforts.

“The Commission’s report was a landmark document and lays out a framework with broad applicability to many emerging technologies, but, like many reports of this type, no mechanisms were put in place to track progress,” David Rejeski, director of the Synthetic Biology Project, said. “Our goal is ensure that this report — and others like it – can drive change.”

The scorecard is here. I’ve linked to the overview which lists all of the recommendations and each one is colour-coded to indicate whether or not there has been activity to implement the recommendation. There are three colour codes, one indicating that no federal activity has taken place, one indicating that federal activity has begun, and one indicating federal activity has been completed. You can click on each recommendation to get more details about federal and non-federal activity.

Live geoengineering webcast from Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Program

The Geoengineering for Decision Makers report is being released today during a live webcast from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at 9:30 am PST (until 11:30 am PST, this morning, Nov. 10, 2011. From the invitation,

There is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that human activities are significant contributors to global temperature changes, even if other dynamics are also at work. Though there are still uncertainties about how fast the climate will change, there is substantial agreement that the impacts could become dangerous over the decades ahead. The greatest danger is that we could pass “tipping points” of self-amplifying, irreversible change into a much hotter world.

“Political decision makers are certain to face choices regarding geoengineering that will be highly controversial as well as fateful for the welfare of the nation and the planet.” says Robert L. Olson, author of “Geoengineering for Decision Makers”.

As concerns about climate change grow, strategies for intervening in the earth’s climate system – through geoengineering — have emerged. Several different viewpoints have appeared about how geoengineering should or could be developed and a number of scientists have begun to argue that geoengineering needs to be part of a larger portfolio of options for addressing climate change.

Join us on Thursday, November 10th, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. [EST] as the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center discusses their new report Geoengineering for Decision Makers

[Speakers]:

Robert Olson, Institute for Alternative Futures

Tim Persons, Chief Scientist, GAO [US General
Accountability Office]

David Rejeski, Director, Science and
Technology Innovation Program

You can go here to view the live webcast.

Synthetic biology ethics

Friday, March 25, 2011, the Synthetic Biology Project which is part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is hosting a discussion about “The Ethics of Synthetic Biology” as per the [US]” President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.” It runs from 9 am to 11 am EST. If you are in Washington, DC and can attend the event, please RSVP here (a light breakfast will be served at 8:30 am). For the rest of us, there’s a webcast and no RSVP is needed for that. Here are more details about the proposed discussion (from the event page),

In December of 2010 the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released a new report on synthetic biology, which found “…no reason to endorse additional federal regulations or a moratorium on work in this field at this time.” Instead the Commission urged “monitoring and dialogue between the private and public sectors to achieve open communication and cooperation.” The Commission’s report is the result of six months of discussion and deliberation and advocates a principle of “prudent vigilance,” where benefits and risks are assessed both before and after projects are undertaken. The report contains 18 recommendations focused on ensuring public benefits, responsible stewardship, intellectual freedom, democratic deliberation, and justice and fairness.

The United States is not alone in its effort to craft policies for the emerging field of synthetic biology. Under the auspices of the European Group on Ethics (EGE), the European Union published Opinion No. 25 – Ethics of Synthetic Biology, recommending that the governance of synthetic biology requires a multi-pronged approach that goes beyond ensuring safety to addressing ethical, legal, and political issues in the EU and worldwide.

Join us at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on March 25th for a transatlantic discussion of the implications and governance of synthetic biology.

The guest panel includes,

– Dr. Christine Grady, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

– Dr. Anita Allen, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues;

– Dr. Hille Haker (Germany). Richard McCormick S.J. Chair of Catholic Moral Theology, Loyola University Chicago (since 2010); Professor of Moral Theology and Social Ethics, University of Frankfurt (since 2005), Member European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies;

– Dr. Lino Paula, Policy Analyst, Ethics and Gender Unit, Directorate for Innovation and European Research Area, European Commission

– David Rejeski, Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program, will moderate the session

If you have the stamina and the interest, you can read the Bioethics Commission’s report and the EGE report ahead of time. On a personal note, the webcast is little early for me (6 am on the West Coast).

Voluntary regulation and oversight for nanotechnology: a review

It’s been a while since I’ve had an invite for a Project on Emerging Technologies (PEN) event. November 4, 2010, the organization will be hosting an event hosting the release of a new report (from the news release),

Join us on Thursday, November 4, 2010, at 12:30 p.m. for the release of Voluntary Initiatives, Regulation, and Nanotechnology Oversight: Charting a Path, a new PEN report by Dr. Daniel Fiorino followed by a commentary by J. Clarence (Terry) Davies.“This report is the most extensive analysis done to date of how voluntary programs can be applied to managing nanotechnology’s possible environmental and health effects,” said David Rejeski, Director of the project. “The report’s analysis and recommendations extend beyond nanotechnology to the newer generation challenges that we face as science rapidly advances.”

Given that most voluntary programmes run by governments have been deemed a failure, I’m quite interested in hearing about how voluntary programmes could be better implemented.

If you’re in Washington, DC and want to attend in person, you will need to RSVP for the event (they’re serving a light lunch at 12 noon EST) which takes place from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm EST.

The event is livestreamed in a webcast.