State-of-play and future trends on the development of oversight frameworks for emerging technologies

Black background with blue strands of DNA, photo by Dmitry/Adobe Stock

Photo by Dmitry/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

Developments in technology are transforming our world, creating a future that is uncertain with unfulfilled potential for both benefits and risks. As technologies become more pervasive and form a critical aspect of our societal infrastructure, governance and wider oversight mechanisms have a key role to play in ensuring that benefits from technology are maximised while risks are managed proactively. Oversight of developments in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and biotechnology, via various mechanisms, will be a crucial factor underpinning the impact of these technologies on research and innovation systems, health, and the environment.

A clear understanding of current and future oversight mechanisms in emerging science and technology across the globe is essential for effectively conducting research and innovation. This understanding also ensures that the outcomes can provide benefits to society.

How are we helping?

Wellcome has commissioned RAND Europe to analyse a suite of oversight frameworks and mechanisms being used and debated across the globe in the fields of genomics (specifically, engineering biology), neurotechnology, human embryology, organoids, AI and data platforms, and to identify emerging trends and novel approaches in oversight. The study will map and dive deep into a variety of oversight frameworks covering a spectrum of options ranging from formal laws and regulations, to informal mechanisms, including ethical guidance or self-regulatory frameworks created by industry bodies or the research community.

The study consists of two phases. Phase 1 will scope research activity in the six technology areas and shortlist key jurisdictions of interest. Global landscape reviews will be carried out to identify emerging developments, which will encompass a scientometric assessment and a rapid document review. Phase 2 will focus on a holistic review of oversight mechanisms across key jurisdictions identified, with technology-specific case studies. Case studies will be developed through crowdsourcing, desk research and expert interviews. Finally, we will convene technology and oversight experts to situate the case studies in the broader ecosystem of oversight developments and emerging trends.