Foresight in Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology Threats

Cassidy Nelson, Ilker Adiguzel, Marie Valentine Florin*, Filippa Lentzos, Rickard Knutsson, Catherine Rhodes, Paul Rutten, Annika Vergin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Rapid developments in the fields of synthetic biology and biotechnology have caused shifts in the biological risk landscape and are key drivers of future threats. From a security perspective, extending our understanding beyond current risks to include emerging threats in these and related fields can play a vital role in informing risk mitigation activities. Insights that are generated can be combined with other efforts to identify vulnerabilities and prevent undesirable outcomes. Emerging risks that may occur at some point in the future are inherently difficult to assess, requiring a systematic approach to examining potential threats. Foresight is a process to consider possible future scenarios. Comprising a range of methods and techniques, foresight processes can offer novel insights into emerging synthetic biology and biotechnology threats. This chapter offers an introduction to foresight, including definitions of key terms that could support a shared lexicon across NATO partners. An overview of different foresight methodologies, their potential applications, and different strengths and limitations are presented. As a key first step, an approach to selecting appropriate questions to guide foresight activities is suggested. Example questions for synthetic biology and biotechnology are highlighted. At the end of the chapter, the authors offer recommendations for the design of a foresight process, with the intention of providing a useable resource for NATO partners investigating emerging synthetic biology and biotechnology threats.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNATO Science for Peace and Security Series C
Subtitle of host publicationEnvironmental Security
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameNATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security
ISSN (Print)1874-6519
ISSN (Electronic)1874-6543


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