Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

CSTPR Noontime Seminar

Stakeholder engagement and governance of emerging biotechnologies

by Jason Delborne, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University

Abstract: Scholarship in responsible innovation has helped move calls for public engagement from vague notions of outreach (that rest comfortably in the deficit model) to a set of ambitious challenges for practices of science, communication, and engagement. Anticipation encourages upstream engagement; inclusion demands attention to who is engaged; responsiveness requires action that extends beyond increased understanding; and reflexivity encourages reflection at multiple stages by those inside and outside the laboratories of innovation, broadly understood (Stilgoe, Owen, and Macnaghten, 2013). To put such ideas in practice, I have led three experiments in stakeholder engagement, partly as a means to enroll stakeholders in the design decisions required to carry out broader future engagement of publics and communities. Topics covered three genetically engineered (GE) organisms: 1) EPA guidelines for regulating GE algae and other microorganisms; 2) the potential deployment of a GE American chestnut tree for species restoration; and 3) the development of a gene drive mouse as a means to reduce populations of invasive mice that threaten biodiversity on islands. This paper draws upon our experiences across these three cases, reflecting upon the assumptions, successes, and shortcomings of our engagement model. What do our experiences contribute to the quest for more responsible innovation in the field of emerging biotechnologies?

Biography: Jason A. Delborne joined North Carolina State University in August 2013 as Associate Professor of Science, Policy and Society in the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster in Genetic Engineering and Society (GES). His departmental home is in Forestry and Environmental Resources (College of Natural Resources), he serves on the executive committee of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center, and he was named a University Faculty Scholar in 2019. Delborne’s research focuses on challenges and potentials of public and stakeholder engagement surrounding emerging biotechnologies. Drawing upon the highly interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), he engages various qualitative research methodologies to ask questions about how policymakers and members of the public interface with controversial science. How we govern, promote, and develop emerging technologies will shape our collective future, and Delborne will contribute to the highly interdisciplinary efforts within GES that engage stakeholders and broader publics to wrestle with such questions. As one example, he is Co-PI on the National Research Traineeship, Agricultural Biotechnology in our evolving Food, Energy, and Water Systems (AgBioFEWS), funded by the National Science Foundation.

Delborne served on two expert committees at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), co-authoring Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values (2016) and Forest Health and Biotechnology: Possibilities and Considerations (2019). He was also appointed to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Task Force on Synthetic Biology and Biodiversity Conservation, which published Genetic Frontiers for Conservation: An assessment of synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation (2019). Delborne is a member of the Council for the Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC) and serves on multiple advisory boards. He holds a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University (1993) and a doctorate in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California, Berkeley (2005).


Wednesday, January 29, 2020
2020 - 12:00 to 13:00





  • CIRES employees
  • CU Boulder employees
  • General Public
  • NOAA employees
  • Science collaborators


  • Seminar
  • Open to Public



CSTPR Conference Room