chapter  1
Rules for Sculpting Ecosystems
Gene Drives and Responsive Science
ByKevin M. Esvelt
Pages 18

As a technology capable of altering wild populations and associated ecosystems, CRISPR-based gene drive challenges existing law and scientific tradition. While most technologies have impacted society, all required participation by citizens. Gene drive is relatively accessible and theoretically permits a single individual to impact many others without anyone else taking action. Worse, scientists can build gene drive systems without realizing the implications. The technology poses few ecological and security risks, but the loss of public trust in science and governance following an accidental or unilateral release would be severe; such an event would delay applications that might otherwise save millions of lives and dozens of species. Gene drive highlights an emerging problem: given that specialized researchers cannot reliably anticipate the consequences of new technologies, how can we wisely decide whether, when, and how to pursue them? A potential solution involves changing scientific incentives to make research proposals publicly available. By enabling diverse researchers to evaluate proposals, scientists to make informed decisions, and projects to respond to community concerns early in development, open science should be safer, advance more quickly, and inspire greater popular support. The field of gene drive offers an ideal test case for open and community-responsive science.