Social Dimensions of Microbial Synthetic Biology

Jane Calvert, Emma Frow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In this chapter, we outline a number of foundational ideas that underpin our approach to the study of the social, ethical, legal and philosophical dimensions of synthetic biology. We describe these through a series of important shifts that have taken place over the past few decades of social science research. We suggest a move away from discussions centred around ethical 'implications', speculations about the future and concerns about risk, regulation and public acceptance, towards a conversation that talks in terms of social 'dimensions', anticipating the future, managing uncertainty, tools of governance and research for the public good. We argue that these seemingly subtle changes in vocabulary open up a new and productive space for thinking about the social dimensions of synthetic biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-86
Number of pages18
JournalMethods in Microbiology
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticipation
  • Governance
  • Public engagement
  • Public good
  • Responsible innovation
  • Science and technology studies
  • Social dimensions
  • Synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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