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The Role of Values in Impact Assessment

Principal Investigator: Gregory Kaebnick

Hastings Investigators: Michael Gusmano and Karen Maschke

Funder: National Science Foundation

This project contributes to discussion of a problem in the governance of emerging technologies: what governance tools or guidelines can be used to help ensure that emerging technologies are used to improve lives, make society better, and protect the environment? The project approaches this overarching question by examines the role of values in formal impact assessment mechanisms—particularly cost-benefit analysis—that might be used to evaluate and compare potential outcomes when an emerging technology is put to use. It asks how these mechanisms handle values—how they incorporate values and what assurances there are that they incorporate the right values. The method in the project was to consider how CBA might be applied to a set of cases in synthetic biology, drawing on a team of experts to help carry out and evaluate the application.

The project is intended to improve the understanding and use of impact assessment mechanisms, advance scholarly debates about the precautionary principle and related topics, and facilitate policy-making (and public understanding of it) on synthetic biology. Collectively, these goals contribute to the growing effort to develop strategies that ensure the governance of emerging technologies aligns appropriately with the public’s values.

Resources produced during the course of the project are available here.