Nav: Home

New report finds increase in media coverage of synthetic biology

December 05, 2012

WASHINGTON - Press coverage of synthetic biology in the United States and Europe increased significantly between 2008 and 2011, according to a report released today by the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The report, Trends in American and European Press Coverage of Synthetic Biology: 2008 - 2011, builds on the project's earlier study of US-EU press coverage between 2003 and 2008. Synthetic biology, an area of research focused on the design and construction of new biological parts and devices, or re-design of existing biological systems, is an emerging technology that is just beginning to garner coverage in the mainstream press.

"Journalistic narratives and imagery can drive public perceptions of any scientific endeavor, so it is important for scientists, universities and funders to understand how the field is being represented in the press," said Eleonore Pauwels, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center and coauthor of the report.

The report highlights a number of key trends seen over almost a decade of press coverage of the technology. First, the last three years have seen a significant increase in the sheer number of articles about synthetic biology. For example, coverage in the United States almost tripled between the 2003-2008 period and the 2008-2011 period. In the European Union there was a six-fold increase between these two periods.

The coverage also remains largely driven by events like the May 2010 announcement by the J. Craig Venter Institute of the creation of the first synthetic self-replicating cell and, immediately following that, the Obama administration tasking the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to examine the implications of that discovery.

Finally, the analysis shows that earlier discrepancies between the portrayal of risks and benefits in the press in the United States and the European Union - with the U.S. media focused more on benefits - have almost disappeared. There is also increased similarity in the types of concerns that were covered in the United States and Europe. Ethical concerns garner the most coverage in Europe, followed by biosafety and biosecurity issues. In the United States, biosafety is the top concern; in the 2003 period, the top concern was biosecurity.
-end-
The full report can be downloaded here: http://www.synbioproject.org/library/publications/archive/6636/

About the Synthetic Biology Project

The Synthetic Biology Project is an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The project aims to foster informed public and policy discourse concerning the advancement of synthetic biology. For more information, visit: http://www.synbioproject.org

About The Wilson Center

The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world. For more information, visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

Related Synthetic Biology Articles:

Cell-free synthetic biology comes of age
In a review paper published in Nature Reviews Genetics, Professor Michael Jewett explores how cell-free gene expression stands to help the field of synthetic biology dramatically impact society, from the environment to medicine to education.
Scientists develop electrochemical platform for cell-free synthetic biology
Scientists at the University of Toronto (U of T) and Arizona State University (ASU) have developed the first direct gene circuit to electrode interface by combining cell-free synthetic biology with state-of-the-art nanostructured electrodes.
Gene-OFF switches tool up synthetic biology
Wyss researchers and their colloaborators have developed two types of programmable repressor elements that can switch off the production of an output protein in synthetic biology circuits by up to 300-fold in response to almost any triggering nucleotide sequence.
Tennessee researchers join call for responsible development of synthetic biology
Engineering biology is transforming technology and science. Researchers in the international Genome Project-write, including two authors from the UTIA Center for Agricultural Synthetic Biology, outline the technological advances needed to secure a safe, responsible future in the Oct.
Scientists chart course toward a new world of synthetic biology
A UC Berkeley team with NSF funding has compiled a roadmap for the future of synthetic or engineering biology, based on the input of 80 leaders in the field from more than 30 institutions.
DFG presents position paper on synthetic biology
Clear distinction between synthetic biology and underlying methods required / No new potential risks associated with current research work
Commandeering microbes pave way for synthetic biology in military environments
A team of scientists from the US Army Research Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed and demonstrated a pioneering synthetic biology tool to deliver DNA programming into a broad range of bacteria.
BioBits: Teaching synthetic biology to K-12 students
As biologists have probed deeper into the genetic underpinnings of life, K-12 schools have struggled to provide a curriculum that reflects those advances.
Sensor strategy a boon for synthetic biology
Rice University synthetic biologists have invented a technology to dial up or down the sensitivity of bacterial biosensors.
Drug-producing bacteria possible with synthetic biology breakthrough
Bacteria could be programmed to efficiently produce drugs, thanks to breakthrough research into synthetic biology using engineering principles, from the University of Warwick and the University of Surrey.
More Synthetic Biology News and Synthetic Biology Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.