The ELSA-group


Biotechnoscience includes all research and development connected to modern biotechnologies and the engineering of life, among them emerging technologies such as genome editing and synthetic energy.

ELSA (Ethical, legal and social aspects) is a transdisciplinary collaborative working to ground the future of biotechnoscience in responsibility and sustainability. We combine life sciences, social sciences and humanities in our work. We do this by research and capacity building on the philosophical, political and socio-ecological aspects and implications of the efforts to use biotechnoscience to engineer life on Earth.

The use of biotechnoscience is often presented as the solution to challenges to health and environment in a world pressured by climate changes, growing populations and environmental damage. The impact of biotechnologies on food, aquaculture, agriculture, husbandry, human-nature relations, gender, cells and genetics are focal points in our range of interests.

Aiming at reaching out in society, we aspire to involve diverse stakeholders in our work, including members of the public, policy communities, civil society organizations, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and funders of research and innovation. We are particularly committed to exploring creative forms of communication across various domains of knowledge.

In our internal cooperation we arrange reading groups to discuss different subjects directly or indirectly related to ongoing projects.

The work of the ELSA group cross-cuts, supports and takes its cues from all of GenØks work.

Our current portfolio of active research projects includes:

  • CRISPRsalmon project: a collaboration between NTNU and GenØk, funded by the Norwegian Research Council. The project will identify, by literature review and a foresight exercise with invited experts, the present and future possibilities in genome editing salmon, as well as relevant ethical issues in this and other breeding approaches. We will study public views on the moral value of salmon and of human-salmon interactions as it is expressed in public documents, media and research.


  • ReWrite – The project aims to produce knowledge that can help decision makers develop policy and regulations that meet the challenge of developing sustainable food systems. We conduct an environmental ethics analyses of how human/nature relations are being reimagined and rewritten by genome editing and suggest a new framework based on a relational ethics, we perform discourse analysis to bring forth knowledge about how different people and groups think about, communicate and debate genome editing.


  • AFINO Responsible Research and Innovation in Norway. The aim is to develop a set of recommendations for RRI and CSR integration in organizations in different sectors. 



  • NewHoRRIzon: a pan-European collaborative and support action on responsible research and innovation (RRI). In this four-year project, we are co-designing RRI activities with organizations previously or currently supported by the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET); and Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the bioeconomy (FOOD) program lines of the European Commission Horizon 2020 framework program.


  • MarSynth: a research project that seeks to integrate principles and practices of responsible innovation into the development of new methods for synthetic biology (i.e. specialized enzymes necessary for isothermal room-temperature DNA assembly).


Project archive:

  • The Agri/Cultures Project: a research project funded by the Norwegian Research Council’s FRIPRO programme for Young Research Talents focused on developing novel concepts, methods and empirical knowledge for understanding and assessing the complex relational networks embodied in and performed by agricultural biotechnologies.


  • biodiverSEEDy: a research project funded by the Norwegian Research Council’s Latin Amerika programme focused on combining art and science to explore the strengths, weaknesses and possible interconnections between in situ and ex situ models of crop biodiversity conservation, including work with indigenous maize farmers in Mexico and the global seed vault in Svalbard.