Responsive Science is a way of conducting research that invites openness and community involvement from the earliest stages of each project. Real-time interaction between scientists, citizens, and broader communities allows questions and concerns to be identified before experiments are performed, fosters open discussion, and encourages research studies and new technologies to be redesigned in response to societal feedback.
Community Involvement.Transparency and societal accountability are critical for any research that involves the shared environment. Responsive Science currently focuses on applied ecological research, including gene drive systems for altering wild populations. Discussions are facilitated by PubPub, a unique collaborative tool for sharing and evaluating research, and our dedicated team.
Wise Choices. Increasingly powerful technologies demand greater wisdom. Share your thoughts on early stage projects to shape a better future for society and the natural world.
Kevin Esvelt is director of the Sculpting Evolution group, which invents new ways to study and influence the evolution of ecosystems. By carefully developing and testing these methods with openness and humility, the group seeks to address difficult ecological problems for the benefit of humanity and the natural world.
Prior to joining the MIT Media Lab, Esvelt wove many different areas of science into novel approaches to ecological engineering. He invented phage-assisted continuous evolution (PACE), a synthetic microbial ecosystem for rapidly evolving biomolecules, in the laboratory of David R. Liu at Harvard University. At the Wyss Institute, he worked with George Church to develop the CRISPR system for genome engineering and regulation, and he began exploring the use of bacteriophages and conjugation to engineer microbial ecosystems.
Esvelt is credited as the first to describe how CRISPR gene drives could be used to alter the traits of wild populations in an evolutionarily stable manner. And recently, he and his Sculpting Evolution group devised a new form of technology, called ‘daisy drives’, which would let communities aiming to prevent disease alter wild organisms in local ecosystems.
By emphasizing universal safeguards and early transparency, he has worked to ensure that community discussions always precede and guide the development of technologies that will impact the shared environment.
Jeantine Lunshof is a research scientist and ethicist in the Sculpting Evolution group where she develops the normative underpinnings for Responsive Science in a project funded by the Greenwall Foundation. The focus of her work as a philosopher-ethicist is on conceptual and normative questions in genomics and biological engineering. Jeantine employs the unique approach of work floor-based ethics research which enables truly collaborative work with bench scientists from the earliest stages of research and discovery.
She holds a PhD from VU University Amsterdam, and studied philosophy and health law in Amsterdam and philosophy and Tibetan language & culture in Germany.
Prior work has been pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine. For the Personal Genome Project (Director George Church, Harvard Medical School) she developed the innovative model of Open Consent. As an Assistant Professor at the University Medical Center Groningen (Netherlands) she has been investigating the normative questions raised by the use of genetic imputation within a population isolate.
Avery Normandin is a first-year graduate student at MIT’s Media Lab. His work relates to ecological engineering across scales, youth engagement via STEM educational program development, and community-guided technology implementation. Prior to MIT, Avery studied microbiology, immunology, and violin at the University of New Hampshire. Read more about some of his projects here.
Devora Najjar is a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab focusing on ethically-minded bioengineering projects. Currently working to develop the first mammalian daisy drive systems, she has a strong interest in the implications for biotechnology policy, biosecurity, and public discussions. Devora previously studied chemical and biomedical engineering at the Cooper Union.
Ashton Strait is a graduate student in the Sculpting Evolution group at the MIT Media lab, where she investigates directed evolution, population dynamics in microbial communities, and CRISPR engineering strategies. Ashton studied Chemistry and Anthropology at Brown University. Prior to entering MIT, she worked in biotech and global health, most recently as a program management fellow for a regional malaria elimination program in Yangon, Myanmar.
Lily Fitzgerald is a graduate student studying technology and public policy at MIT. Working with Dr. Kevin Esvelt and the Sculpting Evolution group, she is developing a novel patenting process for CRISPR-related technologies, and also assists with investigating gene drive systems in model organisms. Lily previously studied environmental science at the University of Massachusetts, and came to MIT after working as a synthetic biologist at Ginkgo Bioworks.