Synthetic biology: mapping the scientific landscape

PloS One
P OldhamGeoff Burton


This article uses data from Thomson Reuters Web of Science to map and analyse the scientific landscape for synthetic biology. The article draws on recent advances in data visualisation and analytics with the aim of informing upcoming international policy debates on the governance of synthetic biology by the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. We use mapping techniques to identify how synthetic biology can best be understood and the range of institutions, researchers and funding agencies involved. Debates under the Convention are likely to focus on a possible moratorium on the field release of synthetic organisms, cells or genomes. Based on the empirical evidence we propose that guidance could be provided to funding agencies to respect the letter and spirit of the Convention on Biological Diversity in making research investments. Building on the recommendations of the United States Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues we demonstrate that it is possible to promote independent and transparent monitoring of developments in synthetic biology using modern information tools. In particular, public and policy understand...Continue Reading


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