Robert Smith's profile

Dr Robert Smith


Research Fellow, Social Dimensions of Synthetic Biology


Science Technology and Innovation Studies

E-Mail Telephone

0131 6504 258

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G.14 Chisholm House

High School Yards

Edinburgh, UK


I work in the field of Science and Technology Studies. My research examines the social, political and policy dimensions of the life sciences. I focus particularly on the how science and technology are made and governed, and how they might be re-made and governed in ways that are more democratic or environmentally beneficial than they are currently.

I have active projects examining the role of funding organisations in governing science, the governance and politics of gene drive technologies, and synthetic biologists’ attempts to ‘engineer’ at the organism scale. My research in these areas is conducted in collaboration with natural scientists and policy makers.

I joined The University of Edinburgh in April 2018 to work with Jane Calvert as part of the Engineering Life Project and Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. This builds on two years worth of researching, intervening and scheming (sometimes with with synthetic biologists) at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London. I completed my PhD at the University of Nottingham, during which I was interested in the development of a biofuel controversy in the UK, and particularly the way that groups — policy makers, NGOs, research funders, scientists and consultants — navigated and reacted to this controversy. I originally trained as a biologist and hold a BSc (Hons) in Animal Science.

Research Interests

Science policy synthetic biology Emerging Biotechnologies Public Value Governance of Science and Technology Collaborative Methods Research Funding Responsible Innovation Science and Technology Studies Biofuels Gene Drive Malaria Uganda Public Engagement

Dr Robert Smith has not added any teaching activity to this section yet.

PhD Topics

I am very happy to supervise anybody with an interest in topics like: biology and how it is made; public and political issues in the life sciences; and the governance of science and technology.

Find out more about the programmes that I am involved with:

PhD in Science and Technology Studies; MSc (R) Science and Technology Studies

Current PhD Students

Sophie Stone -- Exploring the place of the human in mammalian synthetic biology practices

Working papers

(Email me for a copy)

  • Smith, R. D. J., Schäfer, S., Bernstein, M.J. (Under review) Governing beyond the project: Refocusing innovation governance in science and technology funding. Minerva
  • Smith, R. D. J., Kamwendo, T.K., Berndt, A., Parkin, J. (Under review) Taking knowledge production seriously in responsible research and innovation. Journal of Responsible Innovation
  • Szymanski, E., Smith, R.D.J., Calvert, J. (Under review) Responsible research and innovation meets multispecies studies: Why RRI needs to be a more-than-human exercise Journal of Responsible Innovation
  • Kamwendo, Z.T., Smith, R.D.J., Scott, D., Calvert, J. (Under review) Distributed Responsible Research and Innovation: Developing a framework for RRI in a multinational funding programme. Science and Public Policy

Governance and funding of biology and biotechnology

Mammalian Synthetic biology

  • Szymanski, E., Bates, T., Cachat, E., Calvert J., Catts O., Nelson, L.J., Rosser S.J., Smith R.D.J., & Zurr, I., (2020) Crossing Kingdoms: How Can Art Open Up New Ways of Thinking About Science?, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology (8):715. DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2020.00715
  • Ellis, T., Rosser, S., Cai, Y., Smith, R., Freemont, P. (2018) Synthesing a Human Genome. What could go right? Report of a Wellcome Trust Workshop.

Gene Drive, Emerging Biotechnologies & Global Health


  • Smith, R.D.J. (2016) Constructing ‘the ethical’ in the development of biofuels. University of Nottingham.
  • Raman, S., Helliwell, R., Mohr, A., Ribeiro, B., Shortall, O., Smith, R.& Millar, K. (2015) Integrating social and ethical dimensions into sustainability assessment of lignocellulosic biofuels. Biomass and Bioenergy (RCUK Bioenergy Manchester special issue). DOI:10.1016/j.biombioe.2015.04.022
  • Boucher, P., Smith, R.& Millar, K., (2014) Biofuels under the spotlight: The state of assessment and potential for integration. Science and Public Policy, 41(3), pp.283–293. DOI:10.1093/scipol/scu028