Governance and Ethics of Biotechnology 1: Gene Drives





About the series

This online nanocourse series is part of the curriculum offered by the Scientific Citizenship Initiative (SCI) at Harvard Medical School. SCI aims to make science more socially responsive and responsible by examining the social impact of scientific research and emerging technology, exposing students to the multiple roles and institutions that make up the innovation ecosystem, and teaching practical skills, such as how to communicate across disciplines and perspectives.

This online course series consists of three nanocourses that each center on an emerging biotechnology. Every nanocourse combines short pre-recorded lectures, ethical simulations, applied communication activities, and group discussions. Students will be exposed to the complexity of ethical decision-making and to the many stakeholders that shape biotechnology design and regulation. For more information about SCI please visit

Registration for all 3 nanocourses in the series is encouraged, but not required. Nanocourses are eligible for credit (read more).

Description and Assignments

This first nanocourse focuses on the societal impact of gene drive technologies (in particular, CRISPR-based gene drives), their ethical implications, and governance issues. By the end of this nanocourse, students will have an understanding of the complex social and ethical issues surrounding scientific advancements like gene drives, what makes a decision ethically justifiable, and how to communicate the logic of those decisions to diverse audiences. This nanocourse will also introduce career options at the intersection of research, technology implementation, and governance.

The course is offered entirely online over the span of one week and combines three, 1.5 hour live group sessions with some asynchronous individual learning requirements. Graduate students can obtain 2 credit units by completing the entire nanocourse series (see here). 

  • 4 hours: Pre-recorded lectures, readings, and short assignments.
  • 3 x 1.5 hours: Live sessions include ethical simulations, communication activities, and group discussions.

Enrollment limit

The course is limited to 12 students.

Student target

This nanocourse series  is aimed at STEM graduate students interested in developing skills in leadership, ethics, and science communication. This interactive course also serves students looking to explore career opportunities outside academia. 

Attendance is required for all sessions. Priority will be given to graduate students taking the course for credit. In order to receive credit, students must attend all three days and complete all assignments. Postdocs may register, but will only be granted access to the course as space allows.

Course Instructors

  • Natalie Kofler
  • Brian Palmiter
  • Laura Ryan

Session Dates and Times

  • Monday, October 5, 11:30 am - 1 pm ET
  • Wednesday, October 7, 11:30 am - 1 pm ET
  • Friday, October 9, 11:30 am - 1 pm ET

If you have any questions - email us at