Erin Cullen, Head of Publications 2017/18

An emerging technology is a technology that is in development, or that will be developed in the next decade. It is a technology that is capable of changing the status quo, and to disrupt the business or social environment in which it finds itself. But regulation for these technologies is proving to be a challenge, and it will be necessary to find a balance between protecting society and ensuring that innovation is not stifled.

The Cambridge Science and Policy Forum, held by CUSPE in 2018 was the first in the society’s history. One of the important topics tackled by experts at the forum was opportunities for collaboration in regulating emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence and machine learning were discussed in detail as two of the new technologies that governments will soon need to consider. The impasse that can be reached between policy makers and developers was addressed, along with the perceived usefulness of regulation. The potential of ‘reusing’ existing regulation for new technologies was also discussed in great detail.

All of these articles highlight the challenges for policy makers when legislating in a rapidly changing technological environment. I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as we have enjoyed editing and working on the publications team this year.

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Thank you to the authors that agreed to have their contributions included in this mini-release. And of course a great many thanks to all the fantastic editors who worked hard in the 2017-2018 year: Hinal Tanna, Philipe Bujold, Roxine Staats, Maggie Westwater, Shan Chong, Amber Ruigrok.

By Stephanie Bazley

In an increasingly digitised world, those within STEM fields have a responsibility to communicate their research in an accessible manner to the funders and end-users of their innovation. Steps should be taken to incentivise improved scientific communication by scientists via social media, open source publishing and outreach programs. In this way, we can ensure equal access to research across society, and increased acceptance of innovation, whilst avoiding costly delays to their implementation.

The scientific field was built upon the basic core principles of collaboration and distribution. With the digital age came renewed opportunities for integration with the community. Now, the foundations of science and healthcare are once again changing, as paradigm-shifting technologies such as AI-powered healthcare solutions and genomic medicine become the norm. If our communities do not understand and accept these new services, any positive impact is significantly limited. In order to find a resolution to this problem, we need to focus on improved scientific communication and education, through re-examined frameworks for scientific impact and funding.

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By Aisha Sobey

Blockchain has been framed as a technology that could alter the shape of the world dramatically in the coming decades, influencing how we act and govern ourselves as a society, as the decentralised nature of Blockchain means that these networks wouldn’t be controlled by one person, group, corporation or government. Reuters expects blockchain to be disruptive, to move from simple applications to displacing central market competitors, in many areas such as healthcare, tax and accounting, politics and entertainment. In healthcare for example, the nature of blockchain means it can be used in patient records, to increase consistency, remove duplication and aid in sharing information between relevant authorities.

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By Michele Sanguanini

CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene editing technology that is revolutionising the way that scientists design biomedical research. In addition to this, CRISPR/Cas9 is opening promising avenues for applications in gene therapy, manufacturing, and agriculture. The commercial and disruptive potential of this invention is so promising that it sparked a ‘gold rush’ towards patenting CRISPR/Cas technologies. Two principal players weighed in to define the CRISPR/Cas9 patent landscape in the US: the University of California Berkeley (UCB) and the Broad Institute, a joint MIT-Harvard research institute. This ultimately led to a high-profile patent battle in front of the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board, where the Broad Institute prevailed in the first instance. The dispute, however, continues worldwide. In this Communication, I will focus on the European front of this litigation; the problem being not only who owns this technology in Europe, but also what are the potential impacts of patent conflicts between academic institutions on European policy and law.

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By Alex Koehler-Sidki

The digital world is changing fast; the computing power of today’s smartphones outpaces that of supercomputers from just twenty-five years ago. We can video-call people on the opposite side of the globe, and we trust that our data are transmitted securely from one device to another. But, given this breathless speed of advancement, can we maintain our security in the coming decades? The use of quantum mechanics could be the answer. Is the UK’s science policy up to it?

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