1: Identifying and prioritising risks
In the first step, participants discuss in small groups which (new) risks they think might arise from the case study. In addition, the potential impact of these possible risks is assessed, with each participant arguing from his/her own expertise and sharing knowledge. These findings are then discussed together, with each group presenting its findings and arguments to the other groups. Are all the findings realistic, and can the participants come to an agreement?
2: Defining risk-reducing strategies
The second step consists of devising strategies that can lower the previously defined risks, or even avoid them altogether. One strategy could be to choose another (host) organism, to use another technique, or to genetically restrict an organism to prevent it from surviving outside the lab (for example by making it dependent on a certain nutrient medium). Each group discusses the possible strategies first with each other, and then in plenary. In this way, the group comes to an overview of which strategies are the easiest to apply, or the most efficient.
3: Design and research adjustments
Once the participants in step two have agreed on which strategies should be used, they will work together to see how these can be incorporated into the design of the case study. What other design choices should be made, or do we perhaps need specific experiments to gather more information? These outcomes provide researchers with insight into possible adjustments of their research in order to pursue safety in the best possible way.
The format and script for this workshop are based on five online workshops that were organised between March 2021 and February 2022 with participants from various fields. The workshop can be organised both physically and online. The script provides practical tips on how to best organise this workshop and what preparations are needed.