Toward Anticipatory Governance of Human Genome Editing: A Critical Review of Scholarly Governance Discourse

J Responsible Innov. 2021;8(3):382-420. doi: 10.1080/23299460.2021.1957579. Epub 2021 Jul 29.


The rapid development of human genome editing (HGE) techniques evokes an urgent need for forward-looking deliberation regarding the aims, processes, and governance of research. The framework of anticipatory governance (AG) may serve this need. This article reviews scholarly discourse about HGE through an AG lens, aiming to identify gaps in discussion and practice and suggest how AG efforts may fill them. Discourse on HGE has insufficiently reckoned with the institutional and systemic contexts, inputs, and implications of HGE work, to the detriment of its ability to prepare for a variety of possible futures and pursue socially desirable ones. More broadly framed and inclusive efforts in foresight and public engagement, focused not only upon the in-principle permissibility of HGE activities but upon the contexts of such work, may permit improved identification of public values relevant to HGE and of actions by which researchers, funders, policymakers, and publics may promote them.

Keywords: CRISPR; human genome editing; participatory governance; public engagement; responsible innovation; technology foresight.