Letter from the Director

Megan J. Palmer


Technology plays a complex and powerful role in shaping our lives, our understanding of ourselves and our world. This is especially true of biotechnology, which is creating new ways of feeding, fueling and healing, and new understandings of the living world and our role within it.

Technology promises to make the world a better place, but underlying this promise are complex social, political and ethical judgements about what makes the world better. Leading technology development to fulfill its promises therefore requires much more than technical savvy. It requires leadership to develop new ways of working together and negotiating conflicting societal needs and values on global scales.

LEAP aims to build processes and communities that actively question, evaluate and respond to emerging challenges in the development of biotechnology.

Everyone has a stake in ensuring that biotechnology creates the most good for the most people. Through biotechnology, we have the potential to transform important segments of science and industry, as well as our fundamental relationships with nature and ourselves. Such powerful transformations demand active reflection on how our individual and collective actions serve diverse—and sometimes conflicting—public interests and values. Unfortunately, training in biotechnology, and science and technology more broadly, rarely teaches individuals how to evaluate the impact of their decisions on society, much less empowers them to explore their concerns and work with others to alter the course during development.

New ideas kept arising through discussion with other fellows and with mentors and guest speakers—really good new ideas. So I rode the wave. I fell off a few times and started again. My ideas got stronger.
— 2015 LEAP Fellow

By empowering practitioners to recognize and engender their public roles, we believe we can develop a culture of active reflection on biotechnology’s goals and means, and that this culture can lead to better outcomes. We believe that developing a practice of active reflection requires time and space, new skills, and a community that both supports and challenges one’s ideas and actions. We also believe it requires reflecting on ourselves as much as we reflect on the world around us. By working with a small but diverse community of emerging leaders, we aim to demonstrate the value and outcomes of active reflection, and catalyze communities and projects that can scale and sustain a positive relationship between biotechnology and the public interest on a global scale.