CALL FOR COMMENTARY – Synthetic Biology

This is the official solicitation for open peer commentaries for the Spring 2012 issue of Ethics, Policy, & Environment . For this next issue, 15.1, we have selected a Target Article by Paul Thompson (Michigan State) titled “Synthetic Biology Needs a Synthetic Bioethics.” In part the piece is a response to the President’s Commission Report on the Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies. Here is the abstract:

Abstract: Recent developments in synthetic biology are described and characterized as moving the era of biotechnology into platform technologies. Platform technologies enable rapid and diffuse innovations and simultaneous product development in diffuse markets, often targeting sectors of the economy that have traditionally been thought to have little relationship to one another. In the case of synthetic biology, pharmaceutical and biofuel product development are occurring interactively. But the regulatory and ethical issues associated with these two applications share very little overlap. As such, there is some risk that focus on traditional medical applications, for which the ethical expertise is highly developed, will overshadow the ethical issues that arise in connection with land use and its attendant socio-economic consequences, especially in the developing world. The 2010 report of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics exhibits this tendency.

We are now soliciting approximately 5-10 open commentaries in response to this article.  Potential commentators will be invited to write short 750-1500 word responses which will be published simultaneously with the lead target article.

If you would like to be considered as a peer commentator for this article or for some future article, please contact our editorial assistant, Sarah Leshan Erskine ( as well as our managing editor, Michael Fortini (, to have your name added to our list.   Please explain in the e-mail that you would like to be considered as a peer commentator, and specify if this particular article is one that may interest you, in which case, Sarah will send an advance version of the article back to you.

For this article, we would like to have you submit a short summary of your proposed Open Peer Commentary (no more than 150 words) by 5:00 pm, MST, Monday, August 29.  If your peer commentary is selected, you will then have until Monday, October 17, to submit your full commentary.

As usual, please also consider submitting a suitable article to EPE as a potential target or feature article.

Benjamin Hale and Andrew Light