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The role of social scientists in synthetic biology

Social scientists can adopt many different roles and responsibilities when they study scientific research: they can be advocates, intermediaries, translators, connoisseurs, critics, activists or reformers. They can reflect on the implications of a finished piece of research, or become involved at a much earlier stage. In newly emerging areas of scientific endeavour, we are seeing novel arrangements forming between natural and social scientists, whereby social scientists are becoming a required component of research programmes and are even involved in the creation of new fields. Here, we explore these developments and examine the various possible roles that social scientists may play in debates about new technologies using the example of synthetic biology.