Wilson Center Experts

Eleonore Pauwels

Senior Program Associate/Researcher, Science and Technology Innovation Program
Science and Technology Innovation Program

Contact Information:
T 202/691-4359 // F 202/691-4001
Science and Technology
Synthetic Biology
Society and Culture
European Union
United States
Formerly European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Technological Development, Directorate on Science, Economy and Society
Wilson Center Project(s):
"The Molecular Economy: Can we avoid the perils while realizing the promises of manufacturing at an atomic scale?"

Eleonore Pauwels is a public policy scholar with the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her primary focus is a comparative and critical analysis of the EU and US approaches towards the societal governance of synthetic biology. She is also examining the challenges that new forms of biotechnology pose for political and public policy organizations, and the regulatory innovations that emerge alongside developments in cutting edge technologies. Her past research has included risk communication, citizen participation in technical controversies, and the epistemology of regulatory and social scientific experiments.

Eleonore holds a M.A. in European Public Policy and Politics awarded by L’Institut d’études politiques de Paris (IEP) and Bath University within the European American University Consortium. She pursued postgraduate studies at the College of Europe (Academic University Institute for Postgraduate European Studies, Bruges) where she completed a cursus in European Regulatory Governance related to EU Research Policy. In 2006-2007, she was part of the Governance & Ethics Unit of the Directorate-General for Research at the European Commission.


Governance of Science and Emerging Technologies; R&D Innovation and Management; Technology Assessment and Citizen Participation; Foresight and Strategic Planning; Regulatory/Policy Analysis; Risk Communication and Public Engagement; Environmental Technologies; the Molecular Economy and its related governance challenges

Project Summary

Pauwels’ research explains how the erosion of public trust in government impacts technology innovation and suggests new ways for officials, business people and the science community to gain and maintain public confidence in society’s ability to manage technological risks. She intends to develop a more efficient, anticipatory and inclusive technology assessment process that would ensure that, in the introduction of synthetic biology into society, social risks are minimized, social benefits are maximized and therefore, social capital accompanies technology innovation.

Major Publications

Pauwels E., Mind The Metaphor, Nature, Vol. 500, August 29, 2013, p. 523-524.

Pauwels E., Our Genes, Their Secrets, The New York Times, June 18, 2013.

Pauwels E., Watch Where You Shed Your DNA—an Artist Might Use It, Slate, May 31, 2013.

Questions swarm around synthetic biology's impact on Mother Nature; Pauwels’ research was quoted in this article about the public awareness about synthetic biology, article by Alan Boyle on NBCNews.com, April 3, 2013.

“Synbio” coverage on the rise – Articles focus on ethics and biosafety, study says; Pauwels is interviewed by Curtis Brainard, The Observatory, Columbia Journalism Review, December 6, 2012

Pauwels E., Kuiken T., Beyond the Laboratory and Far Away: Immediate and Future Challenges in Governing the Bio-Economy, Policy Brief, WWICS, January 2013.

Pauwels E., “Who Let the Social Scientists into The Lab?” in M. Gorman (UVA), N. Savage (EPA), A. Street (DOE) (eds), Emerging Technologies: Socio-Behavioral Life Cycle Approaches, Pan Stanford Publishing 2013.

Pauwels E. “Public Understanding of Synthetic Biology,” in BioScience (American Institute of Biological Sciences, http://www.aibs.org/bioscience/), Special Issue on Synthetic Biology, Feb 2013, Vol. 63, N. 2.

Pauwels E., “Metaphors and Cohabitation Within and Beyond the Walls of Life Sciences,” in A. Rip (ed), Opening the Lab, Forthcoming 2013.

Pauwels, E., “Trends in American and European Press Coverage of Synthetic Biology – Tracking the Years 2008-2011”, SYNBIO 4, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, December 2012.

Pauwels E. and D. Rejeski, ‘Robo-mosquitoes’ in Margaritaville? in The Miami Herald, August 13, 2012. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/13/2945313/robo-mosquitoes-in-margaritaville.html

Pauwels E., “A Reflection on the Notion of Cohabitation Within and Beyond the Walls of Life Sciences,” in Carayannis E. (ed.),  International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development, 3(2), 1-10, April-June 2012, pp. 1-10.

Pauwels E., “Avoid Isolation Between the ‘Two Cultures’–Keep It Complex and Open, A View from Science and Technology Studies (STS): Interview with Andy Stirling, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK,” in Carayannis E. (ed.),  International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development, 3(2), 1-10, April-June 2012, pp. 39-44.

Pauwels E., “Learning to Cope with Socio-Ecological Impacts of Emerging Technologies, A View from Sustainability Science: Interview with Joan David Tàbara, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain,” in Carayannis E. (ed.),  International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development, 3(2), 1-10, April-June 2012, pp. 45-48.

Pauwels E., “Can Synthetic Biology Be Harnessed for Sustainability? A View from Synthetic Biology: Interview with Kaustubh Bhalerao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA,” in Carayannis E. (ed.),  International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development, 3(2), 1-10, April-June 2012, pp. 49-56.

Pauwels E. “Budget Hero: not just a game – Playing a computer game that models the budget’s tough choices is serious fun: an exercise in participatory democracy,” The Guardian, Friday July 29, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/29/us-politi...

Pauwels E., "The Value of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to Sustainability Research. A Critical Approach toward Synthetic Biology Promises," in Carlo C. Jaeger, J. David Tàbara, and Julia Jaeger (eds), Transformative Research for Sustainable Development, Springer, July 2011. http://www.springerlink.com/content/978-3-642-19202-9#section=913804&pag...

Pauwels E., “Who Let the Humanists into the Lab?,” Valparaiso University Law Review’s 2011 Symposium Issue –The Synthetic Cell: Bioethics, Law and the Implications of Synthetic Life, Volume 45, forthcoming August 2011. http://scholar.valpo.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2218&context=vulr&s...

Pauwels, E. (2010), “Who let the engineers into the lab?”, Genewatch, Volume 23, Issue 1, April 2010.

Pauwels, E. (2009), Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Studies on U.S. Public Perceptions of Synthetic Biology, in Systems and Synthetic Biology; ISSN: 1872-5325 (Print) 1872-5333 (Online), Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, Springer, 3, 1-4, 37-46. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2759427/

Pauwels, E., and I. Ifrim, “Trends in American and European Press Coverage of Synthetic Biology – Tracking the Last Five Years of Coverage”, Synthetic Biology Project 1, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, November 2008. http://www.synbioproject.org/process/assets/files/5999/synbio1final.pdf

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