Tracks/Policy Practices

Interested in the Policy & Practices track for 2015?
Please let us know by emailing policypractices AT After its pilot launch for the iGEM 2014 season, it is unclear whether the this track will be offered during the 2015 season. However, we would still like to hear from any teams who are interested in participating.

The iGEM Policy & Practices track aims to stimulate innovative ways of thinking about the policy, economic, social, legal, and philosophical landscape of synthetic biology. Teams participating in this track are developing skills and tools that will help to prepare synthetic biologists for the world they’re working in, and help the world decide how it might best make use of synthetic biology.


The iGEM competition calls on students to build interdisciplinary teams of biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists to ask new questions about what synthetic biology can do. Over the past ten years, thousands of students from countries around the world have started to imagine a future that uses biology as a design medium, and that relies on open-source, standardized parts to build with biology. The most successful teams often work hard to imagine their projects in a social context, and to better understand issues that might influence the design and use of their technologies. Increasingly, they also work with students and advisors from the humanities and social sciences to explore topics concerning ethical, legal, social, economic, biosafety or biosecurity issues related to their work. Consideration of these “Human Practices” is crucial for building safe and sustainable projects that serve the public interest.

In previous years, iGEM teams that have made significant contributions to integrating broader social considerations into the design of their synthetic biology devices, have been awarded with the Special Prize for Best Policy and Practices Advance. This year we are introducing a dedicated ‘Policy & Practices’ track for teams looking to contribute detailed work grounded in the humanities and social sciences. The new name of ‘Policy & Practices’ is intended to reflect a broadened and matured vision for activities in this track - and across iGEM as a whole - that has evolved from the strong track record of Policy and Practices at iGEM.

What we're looking for:

In general, we are looking for:

  • Projects that engage with social, cultural, ethical, philosophical, environmental, political, legal and/or economic dimensions of synthetic biology.
  • Projects that are grounded in a clear understanding of the structure and practice of synthetic biology, and the broader social and political context in which this technology is being developed.
  • Thoughtful and critical investigation using approaches from the social sciences and humanities.
  • Interdisciplinary engagement and/or collaboration with engineers, scientists, artists, designers, and social scientists.
  • Active engagement with broader communities and stakeholders to explore a variety of perspectives and foster constructive debate and discussion.

What we don't want:

  • Projects that are focused on marketing/promoting a particular synthetic biology application, without a broader set of questions informing and driving the work.