Recommendation 9

Timed Recommendation Education Federal Activity

Ethics Education

Explore appropriate and meaningful training requirements and models in ethics education similar or superior to the training required today in the medical and clinical research communities.


Because synthetic biology and related research cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, ethics education similar or superior to the training required today in the medical and clinical research communities should be developed and required for all researchers and student-investigators outside the medical setting, including in engineering and materials science. As part of the coordinated approach urged in Recommendation 4, the Executive Office of the President, in consultation with the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the scientific community, and the public, should convene a panel to consider appropriate and meaningful training requirements and models. This review should be completed within 18 months and the results made public.



  • Executive Office of the President – No activities identified specifically related to ethics education.  However, ethics education has been mentioned as part of larger initiatives, e.g., the principles developed by the Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination.
  • National Academy of Sciences – No activities identified.


  • In June 2009, the Synthetic Biology Project together with the Hastings Center published The Ethical Issues in Synthetic Biology, a report that examined the social and ethical challenges surrounding the emerging field of synthetic biology and presented a framework for addressing these issues. 
  • The July - August 2011 issue of the Hastings Center Report also contained several papers that examined various aspects of synthetic biology and the ethical challenges it presents.
  • National Academy of Engineering
    • In September 2010, the National Academy of Engineering launched a collaboration with the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center to bring together synthetic biology researchers and experts in engineering ethics. The leading question of this collaborative project is:  “How can engineering ethics contribute to the positive potential of the new field of synthetic biology?”  This collaborative project intends to examine how research and educational activities can help to achieve those positive goals.

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