Rethinking public engagement for gene editing

d41586-018-03269-3_15541758Over the past three years, thousands of articles have been published about editing genes and genomes. Apart from a public dialogue run by the Royal Society at the end of last year, there’s been little attempt to engage the public on the implications of the technology in a way that could alter the decisions of scientists and policymakers. Indeed, concern about the lack of effective public engagement has motivated several workshops, including one by the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

If the history of public engagement surrounding other recent scientific innovations is a guide, efforts to explain the science behind gene editing will intensify, such as through news stories, at science festivals, in public lectures and in museums. And there will be a rash of small, disconnected workshops involving members of the public that are designed to inform specific policy decisions.

If this is all that happens, scientists and policymakers will be ill prepared for the public debate that will almost certainly erupt as applications proliferate.

Instead of waiting for an outcry about a specific potential application, governments and key stakeholders must design a new kind of engagement.

Read the full article in Nature