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VIRI Cambridge Easter Term 2017

Thanks to those who attended the VIRI Lunch on 6 June, here is a brief summary of our conversations.
There is also now an open poll to select the date for the Michaelmas Term Lunch (please complete by end of July 2017)
VIRI Meeting in Arizona, May 2017
  • Several members of this list joined the VIRI Annual Meeting at ASU in May. Jenny Molloy presented on open access to scientific tools and responsible innovation, drawing on OpenPlant and the Gathering for Open Science Hardware as examples of spaces where RRI issues can be probed. Other sessions included presentations on the role of corporate actors in responsible innovation, social structures in physics which influence sharing research and a world cafe style session on the impacts (or lack thereof) of RRI interventions by social scientists and factors affecting those such as politics, researcher ambivalence and others.
  • A major topic of conversation was the future of VIRI as the funding for the network is expiring and it seems unlikely to be renewed due to changes by the funder NSF and at ASU. There was resolve to look for additional funding as a network but otherwise to work to continue an annual meeting and activities for early career researchers through inclusion in other meetings/grants.
  • The new VIRI website is now live at and further resources will continue to be added. If you would like papers or information added to the Cambridge profile page or have RRI resources to share, you can contact Deron Ash (
Governing Emerging Technologies Conference 2017
The Governing Emerging Technologies conference immediately followed the VIRI meeting and several member of CSER attended. The issue of responsibility and the attention and money provided to low probability existential risk versus other research into more immediate threats was raised. Catherine Rhodes also mentioned interesting talks including keynotes on Open Access politics and patents by Margo Bagley and law and culture by Gillian Hadfield. 
Topics of discussion during the lunch meeting:
  • Responsible innovation and doing good - how can we work together on balancing the relative negative risks of an activity with its potential to do good? 
  • The Global Challenges Forum is kicking off with workshops engaging researchers with civil society organisations and their needs, starting with financing models for water and sanitation for the urban poor and a workshop with UNICEF innovation on IoT for women and children in urban areas. The scope of that topic is to be determined but could also include water sanitation alongside sensor-based technologies.
  • Julius Weitzdörfer of CSER described his interests and current work on a book about Fukushima and nuclear fear. He also has interests in people's influence on nuclear power policies and gender, ideas of balancing risks. 
  • We also discussed disasters and disaster justice in Japan, where Julius has worked on disaster resilience and the huge problem of homelessness following disasters from a political and financial standpoint.
  • Two STS researchers, Robert Smith (KCL) and Michael Bernstein (GenØk), are interested in continuing the conversation about RRI interventions that started from a series of meetings of early career researchers from the VIRI network and continued during the VIRI Annual Meeting. They would like to arrange interviews with researchers at Cambridge in synthetic biology to get their perspectives and Lalitha Sundaram may be in touch with some of you to arrange this. Their aim is "gathering experiences and reflections on the growing phenomenon of science, technology and society ‘interventions’ — often time-limited, externally funded collaborations with scientists / technologists or science & technology policy communities. Our current round of meetings is focused on intersections between intervention and responsible innovation across a range of fields within Europe. The work’s goals are to collaboratively investigate and then develop shared lessons for responsible innovation and interventions in and around emerging science & technology."
Michaelmas Term 2017 Meeting
The following theme was suggested for the Michaelmas term meeting: RRI and its relationship to chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear risks.
Julius Weitzdörfer has kindly offered to talk about his work in this area, if you know of others who might be interested to contribute by presenting or discussing their work in this area, please let know.


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The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, as well as commercial partners and external collaborators.