Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI)

The mission of the ELSI program is to explore societal issues that may arise from the Office of Science interests in bioenergy, synthetic biology, and nanoscience research.

Program Description

The explicit intention of ELSI is to interweave, from the outset, thinking about scientific activities with explorations of their potential societal implications. Mission-relevant science of primary importance includes bioenergy, synthetic genomics, and nanoscience. The DOE ELSI Program examines issues associated with DOE science by inviting and supporting peer-reviewed studies of the societal issues and their implications, recognizing that the social context is always evolving and both scientists and society need to adapt along with it in their discussions of societal implications. A principal aim is to break down distinctions among science practitioners and those exploring societal implications, based on the explicit assumption that society, including scientists and the sciences, benefits directly from considering societal implications ahead of time and at each stage of the research.


The program is not presently soliciting research applications.

Future grant solicitation notices will be posted on the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site and at Information about preparing and submitting applications, as well as the DOE Office of Science merit review process, is at the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site.

The most recently closed solicitation (Notice 07-16) focused on explorations of the potential societal implications arising from scientific research in areas of systems microbiology pertaining to the DOE mission of bioenergy, and, in addition, issues arising from synthetic genomics applied to bioenergy, and research on nanomaterials and nanotechnologies relevant to bioenergy. Preapplications were required and were due February 8, 2007. Fifty-one (51) preapplications were received and reviewed. Twelve (12) of the preapplications were selected to be developed into full (formal) applications. Five of the formal applications were selected for funding.

Why the Program's Research is Important

Science is an important and growing facet of society and can have unpredictable outcomes. The ELSI program takes a proactive stance to anticipate societal benefits and implications of science, rather than to react to scientific developments after unintended consequences. The program contributes to the informed choices society makes to implement (or not implement) scientific knowledge.

More Information about the Program and Its Accomplishments

Program Research Projects

Program Research Results

Program Publications

Program Manager

Libby White
Biological Systems Science Division, SC-23.2
U.S. Department of Energy, GTN Bldg.
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585-1290
Phone: (301) 903-7693
Fax: (301) 903-0567