Developing a Research Agenda and Methodologies for Extreme Bio-Risks (Invite only workshop)

Led by Lalitha Sundaram, Research Associate on Bio-risk Analysis at CSER and Piers Millet, Senior Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) focuses on the understanding, management and mitigation of risks from emerging technologies and human activity, which threaten humanity’s survival, even if only with very low probability. We are particularly interested in areas in which our work can provide significant added value, e.g. risks that are understudied at present, or where our convening power can help shift agendas, or achieve progress on specific issues.

 CSER has done some interesting initial work on bio-risks over the past year – including a horizon-scan on emerging issues in bio-engineering, and co-organising a workshop on regulatory issues for gene drive technologies. We are seeking to expand our contributions to this area, and this workshop provided a valuable engagement opportunity as we develop our approaches and activities.

Part of the day focused on developing a general GCR/Bio-X-Risk Research Agenda, which can be used to identify priority research areas. It began with an introduction to research agendas in practice, providing a brief overview of the Ebola Research Agenda by a speaker that played a leading role in its development. This was followed by a number of food-for-thought research questions to be reviewed by participants for their relevance. There was then a more detailed, participant-led discussion of other possible research questions. The output from this session will shape a subsequent process to develop a formal research agenda.

The other part of the workshop focused on a more specific research programme which seeks to develop a systematic approach to analysing potential extreme risks arising from developments in synthetic biology, which will inform realistic and timely regulatory and policy development.

Full report coming soon.

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