While science has traditionally been done behind closed doors, the increasing power of technology to alter our shared environment makes it imperative for us to switch to an open and community-driven process.
Responsive Science uses PubPub, an interface developed at the MIT Media Lab, to provide a platform for researchers to share their scientific goals and progress with the communities that may one day be impacted by their research. By actively inviting concerns and criticism from local citizens at the very beginning of each project, technologies can be redesigned to more effectively address societal needs.
We encourage scientists to post their grants, papers and proposals and begin discussions in order to make science faster, safer, and responsive to everyone.
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.
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.