SBPWG:Gaps/Gaps Draft v2

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Below is information on the Gap Minding Project, including a Gap Draft List, sent by the Practices leadership to the SynBERC SAB for discussion during a July 22nd 2011 teleconference.

On Gap Minding

One project within SynBERC’s Practices Thrust is the development of a prioritized list of ‘top gaps’ in the practice of synthetic biology, broadly defined. We envision list assembly to be beneficial both as a process and as a product. As a process, developing and sustaining the list is a mechanism for community-wide engagement in identifying current and emerging issues and needs. The product – not final, but to be updated on an ongoing basis – serves as a tool for framing conversation, mobilizing action and recognizing progress.

We hope the SAB will both (i) give feedback on project scoping, and (ii) participate in gap list development. To help guide our discussion, we have assembled a draft list of gaps and a series of questions to the SAB.


  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of assembling a ‘top list of gaps’ in the practice of synthetic biology, both in terms of process and product?
  • How might we set expectations with respect to contribution and uses of the gap list? How might it be best used as a catalyst for attention and action?
  • Would you be willing to share your views on missing gaps and potential strategies for minding gaps? This could occur in writing or via one-on-one conversations with Practices Deputy Director Megan Palmer.
  • Are there any other issues that we should be considering as we move forward?

Gap Seed List

(draft form; not prioritized)

  • A. generational transfer of biosafety wisdom and leadership
  • B. a strategy for biosecurity in a world in which we (and others) sustain incremental improvement in our capacity to engineer biology
  • C. building trust re: biosecurity across secrecy gaps due to classification of work
  • D. transcending a cultural and political framing wherein synthetic biology will simultaneously destroy and safe the world
  • E. sustaining an investment in foundational tools development that make biology easier to engineer
  • F. understanding and acting on how to best structure and balance relationships between common and private ownership of technologies so as to best advance the future of biotechnology
  • G. sustaining and improving integration of practices throughout a diverse synthetic biology research community.
  • H. teaching broad audiences about being a citizen w/r/t synthetic biology
  • I. avoiding regurgitation of other's concerns without critical thinking