Posted: July 31, 2019

Full proposals due September 12, 2019

Examining the social implications of technology is a form of technology assessment that anticipates the unforeseen and unintended consequences of technological innovation, including cultural, health, welfare, equity, ethical, and environmental impacts. A critical lesson learned from past experiences with the application of scientific discoveries and technological innovations to agricultural production is that public trust in science begins with, and requires ongoing transparency and open deliberation. Technologies such as gene drives and genome editing, big data, and autonomous technologies and systems have tremendous capability in shaping the future of agriculture, requiring the scientific community to develop effective means of communicating and engaging with the public. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommended that for these innovations to become applicable to agriculture, there should be a dialogue between scientists, legal scholars, bioethicists, social scientists, the public, and other stakeholders to assess the merits and risks of new technologies and scientific discoveries, and pursue an open and effective means to credibly engage with the public about these issues.

Research project applications must address the following:

  • Assess the broad social, ethical, cultural, legal, and other potential impacts that new technologies and scientific discoveries may pose for society, agricultural markets, agricultural communities and rural prosperity, consumer preferences, and other domains and consider models for ameliorating challenge to the technologies; and
  • Involve a range of individuals including scientists, legal scholars, bioethicists, social scientists, and researchers from the humanities, the public, and other stakeholders to assess the technology's merits and risks and/or examine issues and modes of communication that can result in open and effective means to involve the public in deliberation over these issues.

Technologies and scientific advancements of interest include:

  • Application of gene editing and gene drives in agricultural systems;
  • Analysis of big data, and tools and approaches for collecting big data from agricultural producers; privacy and security implications for the collection, storage, availability and sharing of Big Data on individuals, technologies, businesses, and/or communities; and
  • Implementation of autonomous technologies and systems within the agricultural commodity chain.

Read the full RFP here (see especially pp. 58-59)

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