Preparing for Human Genome Editing Technologies

2019 - present

Interdisciplinary anticipatory governance to collectively reimagine emerging biotechnologies.

Human genome editing technologies are a constellation of emerging technologies that are laden with promises and perils, with new inventions and applications teetering into futures riddled with uncertainty. Both within and beyond the scientific community, people are grappling with whether and how these tools might shape our futures. How should this suite of technologies be
used? Under what conditions? How should it be governed?

Forward-looking, democratically oriented governance is needed to ensurethat human genome editing serves rather than undercuts public values. This research investigates future directions of human genome editing, exploring fundamental questions about risks, benefits and trade-offs with deep attention to questions of equity and the societal, ethical, and political desirability of
inventions like CRISPR-Cas9.

Dr. Selin operates as co-Principal Investigator for this massive National Institutes of Health-funded, interdisciplinary project focusing on the future of human genome editing. The project includes deliberate workshops with subject-matter experts and members of the public, alongside multi-institutional rigorous research and public dissemination of the project's findings. This has included:

Research-intensive scenario development to enable a critical, participative, generative, and
anticipatory inquiry. Combining literature reviews, qualitative in-depth interviews, and deliberative dialogue, we engagedexperts from the biological sciences, bioethics, the social sciences, law,
policy, private industry, and civic organizations to craft narrativesdescribing four plausible future worlds. These scenarios are designed to model different logics of change, interminglingdiverse variables to create divergent vantage points through which to think about questions of values and governance. [link to report] – CAN DRAW IN IMAGES

Reflexive public engagement known as participatory technology assessment (pTA), involving three in-person forums in Boston, MA; Phoenix, AZ; and Waco, TX and one virtual forum with informed and
demographically diverse participants. These forums were conducted to understand
public concerns, values, and issues, and develop actionable understandings of public preferences regarding governance of HGE research, development, and applications. The publics’ Briefing Materials and our Preliminary Resultscan be found here []—CAN

To learn more, please see:


  1. Nelson, JP*, C. Selin & C. T. Scott. 2021. “Toward anticipatory governance of human genome editing: a critical review of scholarly governance discourse” Journal of Responsible Innovation.