Seven open questions in the futures of human genome editing

John P. Nelson, Cynthia L. Selin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholarly discussion around the governance of human genome editing (HGE) recognizes that development and application of HGE techniques could result in unexpected societal outcomes. However, it contains few to no methodological models for how to anticipate, prepare for, or shape such outcomes. This article presents early-stage results from research guided by anticipatory governance, a framework for broad expert and public consideration of innovation processes and purposes. We present and discuss key themes emerging from a set of future-oriented interviews with genome editing practitioners and experts, designed to inform broadly scoped deliberations about plausible futures of HGE. We articulate our results as seven “open questions,” the answers to which will be important components of HGE's eventual shape and outcomes. Some themes are perennial in studies of science and society, and others are more novel to HGE. Each helps to reframe HGE beyond a simple comparison of risk and benefit. Such reframing opens up new and important terrain for discussion among policymakers, academics, scientists, and publics. We suggest that discussion framed around broad and reflexive questions like those presented here will help governance efforts to better acknowledge and flexibly respond to the uncertainty and complexities of HGE developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103138
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Anticipation
  • Foresight
  • Governance
  • Human genome editing
  • Responsible innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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