The Wilson Center today released a report debunking the media myths surrounding the Do-It-Yourself Biology movement, called "Seven Myths and Realities about Do-It-Yourself Biology" based on my survey of the community earlier this year. I hope the report can move the conversation beyond just biosecurity and finally get us to the fun part where we focus on opportunities.
You can read the editorial in Slate, or let the report speak for itself. Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:
The DIYbio community is not an anonymous threat to public biosafety and security. Rather, the movement provides a new channel for public science engagement and education and a broad opportunity for economic and scientific innovation. Though still in the early phases of development, the community has already shown promise in all these areas.
The negative portraits drawn by policymakers and media mismatch the survey data. DIYbio shows a well-networked community that is aware of the risks and ethics related to biotechnology. The data also shows that DIYers are almost exclusively working with BSL 1 organisms, rather than the pathogens imagined in the press. At present, very few DIYers are actually engineering genes, but that number stands to grow as the technology becomes easier and more reliable.
It is in the interest of academia, industry, and government to foster these communities through grants, access to equipment, and shared expertise.
As the DIYbio movement grows and becomes more technically adept, greater governance may be required. However, contrary to news reports, the community is already actively engaged in developing codes of conduct, developing safety protocols, and discussing the various regulations that may affect it. To harness this community’s potential to provide biotech innovation, education, and awareness, policymakers should treat the community as a valued stakeholder within the larger biotech community and include it in future policy discussions.