Escaping the 'Half-pipe of Doom:' Is the IPCC Model Transferable to Issues of Safety and Security of Biotechnology?

Thursday, May 13, 2010
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
CISAC Conference Room

Exponential advances in the life sciences, particularly in the realm of biotechnology, have been held to raise the classic concerns of "dual-use" research: the same technologies that propel scientific advances critical to human health, the environment and economic growth also could be misused to develop biological weapons, including for bioterrorism.  However, there is significant disagreement as to whether this depiction appropriately frames the nature of the problem.  Some scientists have characterized the prevailing policy discourse on the life sciences as the "half-pipe of doom," a bipolar approach that artificially disaggregates and decontextualizes the promise and peril of advances in the life sciences.  The panel will discuss proposals to address such concerns, focusing on whether the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers a transferable model of scientific and policy consensus-building for issues of safety and security of biotechnology.      

Stephen J. Stedman joined CISAC in 1997 as a senior research scholar, and was named a senior fellow at FSI and CISAC and professor of political science (by courtesy) in 2002. He served as the center's acting co-director for the 2002-2003 academic year. Currently he directs the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies at Stanford and CISAC's Interschool Honors Program in International Security Studies. His current research addresses the future of international organizations and institutions, an area of study inspired by his recent work at the United Nations. In the fall of 2003 he was recruited to serve as the research director of the U.N. High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. Upon completion of the panel's report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Annan asked Stedman to stay on at the U.N. as a special advisor with the rank of assistant secretary-general, to help gain worldwide support in implementing the panel's recommendations. Following the U.N. world leaders' summit in September 2005, during which more than 175 heads of state agreed upon a global security agenda developed from the panel's work, Stedman returned to CISAC. Before coming to Stanford, Stedman was an associate professor of African studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant to the United Nations on issues of peacekeeping in civil war, light weapons proliferation and conflict in Africa, and preventive diplomacy. In 2000 Scott Sagan and he founded the CISAC Interschool Honors Program in International Security Studies. Stedman received his PhD in political science from Stanford University in 1988.

Donald Kennedy is the editor-in-chief of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a CESP senior fellow by courtesy. His present research program entails policy on such trans-boundary environmental problems as: major land-use changes; economically-driven alterations in agricultural practice; global climate change; and the development of regulatory policies.

Kennedy has served on the faculty of Stanford University from 1960 to the present. From 1980 to 1992 he served as President of Stanford University. He was Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration from 1977-79. Previously at Stanford, he was as director of the Program in Human Biology from 1973-1977 and chair of the Department of Biology from 1964-1972.

Kennedy is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He served on the National Commission for Public Service and the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government, and as a founding director of the Health Effects Institute. He currently serves as a director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and as co-chair of the National Academies' Project on Science, Technology and Law. Kennedy received AB and PhD degrees in biology from Harvard University.

Drew Endy is a synthetic biologist with the Stanford Department of Bioengineering. He was a junior fellow and later an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT prior to coming to Stanford in September 2008 as an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering. Endy's research focus is on synthetic biology. With researchers at MIT he works on the engineering of standardized biological components, devices, and parts, collectively known as "BioBricks." He is one of several founders of the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, and invented an abstraction hierarchy for integrated genetic systems. Endy is known for his opposition to limited ownership and supports free access to genetic information. He has been one of the early promoters of open-source biology, and helped to start the Biobricks Foundation, a non-profit supporting open-source biology.

Tarun Chhabra is a JD candidate and Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow at Harvard Law School, and a doctoral candidate in international relations at Oxford University.  Tarun previously worked in the Executive Office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and on the staff of Annan's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  He also served as a consultant-advisor to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Russia at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) and received a Marshall Scholarship to study at Merton College, Oxford, where he earned a MPhil in international relations and was an instructor in international relations at Stanford House.  He holds a BA from Stanford University, where he worked at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project and was in the honors program at CISAC. Tarun is a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Chris Field is the founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, Professor of Biology and Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University, and Faculty Director of Stanford's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. He also is co-chair of Working Group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will lead the fifth assessment report on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability.  The author of more than 200 scientific publications, Field’s research emphasizes impacts of climate change, from the molecular to the global scale. Field’s work with models includes studies on the global distribution of carbon sources and sinks, and studies on environmental consequences of expanding biomass energy. Field has served on many national and international committees related to global ecology and climate change and was a coordinating lead author for the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Field has testified before House and Senate committees and has appeared on media from NPR “Science Friday” to BBC “Your World Today”. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. Field received his PhD from Stanford in 1981 and has been at the Carnegie Institution for Science since 1984.