Is there a responsible future for CRISPR salmon?

Tomorrow I will give an invited talk at the Autumn Conference of the SalmonGroup, the network for small and medium-size salmon farmers in Norway, in Bergen. The topic is gene-editing using CRISPR-Cas9 in Norwegian aquaculture, a project I have been involved with the past 5 years with Anna Wargelius, Rolf Edvardsen, Lene Kleppe et al. at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen. Here are my points:

  • FAST: The timeline from the idea to apply CRISPR to make a sterile salmon to published paper was 3 years
  • BERGEN: The CRISPR sterile salmon is a Bergen-based project and innovation originating in the Wargelius lab at the Institute of Marine Research, with good collaboration with industry and science institutions outside of Bergen
  • POTENTIAL: The potential for new CRISPR innovations is large; can you imagine CRISPR’d salmon that is louse-free? CRISPR’d plants that produce sustainable Omega3 for salmon feed? It’s within reach…
  • YOUNG vs OLD: A pilot survey of 144 people by local Bergen high school students at Nordahl Grieg VGS shows that people under 30 years old are more willing to eat gene-modified salmon if it has been approved by Norwegian food authorities than people over 30.
  • RRI: Public acceptability? This remains a large open question, and the purpose of my Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) practice is to open for an informed public debate (hence this talk!)

Here is the link to my presentation (in nynorsk!):


University of Bergen = UN Hub for SDG14!

Today is United Nations Day and we here at UiB got exciting news that we have been chosen for a leadership role on SDG 14, Life below water, for United Nations Academic Impact. This work will be an integral part of SDG Bergen  (@SDGBergen). I look forward to contributing to this big, new responsibility.

Read more here:

And here:

Back from maternity leave #3!

After a great maternity 8 month leave with my third daughter, Mari, I’m now back in business at the Department of Biological Sciences @UiB. This semester I’m lecturing in the following courses:

  • MOL270: Bioethics
  • MNF990: Theory of Science and Ethics
  • BIO382: Aquatic Food Production
  • BIO325: Ocean Science
  • MNF115: Natural Science Perspective on Sustainable Development

Plus, I’m the UiB coordinator for the IMBRSea international masters program. This semester we have 20 IMBRSea students. To kick-off this semester, I took baby Mari along to #Arendalsuka2018 for a 3 day trip. Next week I’ll be at ICES Annual Science Conference for a jam-packed week with 3 talks, mentoring 4 students and I was selected to be one of the “Shark Tank” evening session judges to cast my chips on the best data tool that will be pitched by some fellow scientists. Looking forward to that!

RRI intro and role-playing in Sweden

This week the “Fish Toxicology in silico” PhD course has been held at the beautiful Sven Loven Marine Biological Station in Kristineberg on the west coast of Sweden. Special thanks to Professors Malin Celander and Anders Goksøyr for hosting this course! The dCod 1.0 project, where I’m the RRI coordinator, was well-represented, and it was great to be able to interact with other students from the University of Gothenburg and University of Plymouth.

Here is the link to the Prezi presentation and role-playing workshop:

Also as a (large 21MB) PDF:

RRI pres Fish Toxicology Kristineberg course Aug 2017


On MPAs & responsible science in the Age of Trump








Early this year Ray Hilborn asked me to comment on an academic exchange in the fisheries community on marine protected areas (MPAs). The efficiency and results of MPAs have long been debated, so I had to mull and stall a while until I could find a new angle to enter into the debate.

I finally found inspiration after participating in an internal seminar (“Post-Truth or Post-Normal?”) at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT), where I worked from 2010–2016, at the University of Bergen. SVT Professors Roger Strand, Gunnar Skribekk, Andrea Saltelli and Silvio Funtowicz, among other SVTers, helped me collect and formalize some of the thoughts that have been bothering me in this new Age of Trump. And the opportunity to relate the Post-Truth era back to marine science and fisheries management revealed itself.

The post is found online here:


Are MPAs the Best way to Protect the Ocean?

Comment by Dorothy J. Dankel, University of Bergen & Nordic Marine Think Tank

I very much appreciated the recent post by Robert Kearney, University of Canberra on the CFood blog’s topic of MPAs:

“The use of emotive one-liners and sensational headlines has exploded with modern social media, aided by a flailing journalism industry that is increasingly reliant on the number of clicks, not the individual or collective expertise of journalists or respondents or the quality of data underpinning assessments. Not surprisingly, politicians use the lack of critical assessment in the debate (a failure of governments) to manipulate the numbers to claim environmental responsibility.“


It is on this pertinent observation, aided by the Lubchencho & Grorud-Colvert’s Policy Forum piece (“Making waves: The science and politics of ocean protection” 15 October 2015) and the current momentum of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s role in the “March for Science” that I provide my personal and academic reflection.


This is a curious time for science and for science communication. The rise of right-wing popularism in the United States culminated in November 2016 with the democratic election of Donald J. Trump. The new president is now presiding over a Cabinet of billionaires, as well as Scott Pruitt who has reportedly sued the EPA 14 times, who is now head of the EPA.


Why are we here today?


Indeed, I believe the current state of affairs where the women and men shout “drain the Swamp” has occurred for the simple reason that the system has not worked for them.[1] Are elite scientists partly to blame?


I followed the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Facebook Live event on February 18, 2017 of the panel discussion “Defending Science and Scientific Integrity in the Age of President Trump” hosted at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston. The benefit of participating in such an event via social media, is that you get to see the live comments from other viewers around the world. The majority of these comments were, of course, pro-science with a strong hint of “speaking truth to power.” Jane Lubchenco herself was an active member on the invited panel. She encouraged the scientists in the audience to participate in the March for Science (scheduled for April 22, 2017) by taking “two non-scientists with you.” The reasoning here is to show that this in not a March By Scientists but a March For Science.


Sure, I can agree with that (I can take my 2 non-scientist daughters aged 6 and 4 with me, problem solved!), but I now will segway into the crux of the matter here: Who’s narrative are we nodding to anyway?


The editorial recently in Nature (“Researchers should reach beyond the science bubble” 21 February 2017) critique the dogma coming from the AAAS leadership and members:


“Just telling the same old stories won’t cut it. The most seductive of these stories — and certainly the one that scientists like to tell themselves and each other — is the simple narrative that investment in research feeds innovation and promotes economic growth. ‘It’s the economy, stupid’, so the saying goes, and as nations become a little less stupid by pushing against the frontiers of knowledge, so the benefits of all this new insight spread from the laboratory to the wider population, as improvements in the standard of living and quality of life.”


I can’t help but reflect on this observation and the AAAS trying (unsuccessfully) to defend scientific integrity to the larger marine MPA debate. Lubchenco and Grorod-Colvert (2015) paper clearly advocates for the extended use of MPAs. They certainly have the right to advocate for something they believe in, but scientific integrity is also about knowing where to draw the line between science (including logical certainty) and non-science[2].


Doug Wilson writes in his seminal work “The Paradoxes of Transparency” (p.36)


“People make use of this rhetorical power of science. They try to present their values and interests as technical requirements, undermining the credibility of science in general when they do so. This phenomenon, then, might be called ‘inflating’ the science boundary.”


It would be more responsible, from a scientific standpoint, not to make assumptions on such value-laden topics such as how to manage marine areas, but instead have a deliberative process. This is because there is not a technical scientific answer for non-technical problems. “Inflating the science boundary” is certainly an effective way to attempt to “speak truth to power” but it does not make it a best practice for scientists providing policy advice.


Robert Kearney critically writes:

“Lubchenco and Grorud-Colvert acknowledge that “reserves cannot address all stressors.” They accept the need to “integrate reserves with other management measures” specifically identifying “issues such as bycatch, unsustainable and IUU fishing, climate change and ocean acidification.” Again the prominence they have given to fishing activities confirms bias in their prioritising of threats and objectives. It is surprising that the authors’ recognition that such fundamental fishing activities as bycatch and unsustainable fishing will not be adequately addressed by reserves has not shaken their belief that even selected areas will be “totally protected” and effective “ocean protection” provided by regulating extraction.”


Kearney has pointed here to the very act of “inflating the science boundary.” There can never be a silver bullet answer to the Ocean’s conservation problems. Advocating for a technical solution is a misinterpretation for the salient question at hand of fair, legitimate and credible Ocean governance.


Doug Wilson (2009, pp 37–38) writes exactly on this topic (my emphasis added):

“The temptation to try to change political, social or cultural phenomena into technical ones is always present. Environmental management requires us to address social behaviour, and so we search for techniques to do so. Management involves manipulation, and it is out of this tension that the question of governance arises when democratic societies seek to address social and environmental problems. This problem is exacerbated when actors seek to obscure rather than clarify the distinction between technical and cultural phenomena. The usual motivation for this is to make a policy choice appear as a technical necessity. As one scientist involved in environmental management put it ‘If … a manager suggests that a decision is based solely on scientifically-derived biological considerations, the manager either misunderstands the nature of science … or is deliberately trying to disguise … a value judgement’ (Decker et al. 1991, quoted in Minnia and McPeake 2001).”


Lubchenco and Grorod-Colvert (2015) furthermore point out the need to ”Bring users to the table” to increase the potential of successful MPA planning. Yes, I agree in principle that stakeholder participation and participatory practices can be helpful in fisheries and marine ecosystem management (see a recent paper I co-authored with Stephenson et al. 2016), but how do you engage would-be “MPA skeptics” or opponents around such a table for collaboration? The call to “Bring users to the table” in this context is under the assumption that an MPA tool is the solution to the problem at hand. The problem is already framed.


From Stephenson et al. 2016:


“Because science for policy is inherently uncertain, with high stakes and value judgements that affect data interpretation, it is necessary to have “… the inclusion of an ever-growing set of legitimate participants in the process of quality assurance of the scientific outputs” (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993, p. 752).”


Two of my colleagues, Andrea Saltelli and Silvio Funtowicz (currently Adjunct Professors at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Bergen), recently wrote the following piece in


“Still, … the reactions to Trump’s election transform the crisis of science into an American party-political affair: the intellectual left against the ignorant right. Science is thus dragged into the political arena, where critical and legitimate questions (institutional, constitutional and societal) are portrayed as a confrontation between science and anti-science.”


Here’s an alternative to marching in the streets beating our chests as privileged white- and blue-collar scientists, fanning the flames started by disenfranchised American (and world) citizens: I rather suggest an informed internal discussion within the leadership and membership of the AAAS, for example of how science can work for all citizens, not just the privileged few. I suggest that this conversation discusses how to collectively frame scientific questions (e.g. “should we have MPAs?” vs “What are the roles for multi-national, corporate, regional and local responsibility and accountability in the marine sector?”) and how to practice processes “of quality assurance of the scientific outputs ” to include all citizens.


Further from Nature (21 February 2017):

“But as this journal and others have pointed out, it is also clear that the needs of millions of people in the United States (and billions of people around the world) are not well enough served by the agendas and interests that drive much of modern science.”


It is no secret that much research money into MPAs is financed by environmental organizations, with a clear agenda for environmental protection. The question than is if it is ethical for these organizations and their scientific supporters to use their voice for marine conservation to inflate the science boundary.


Personally, I want to protect a healthy and sustainable Ocean, our Earth’s most precious resource. Icons such as Sylvia Earle and Jane Lubchenco have positively influenced my career as a female fisheries scientist. I think MPAs can be an effective way to accomplish protection and sustainable utilization where we have scientific evidence of “spill-over” and greater overall resilience with protected areas. But, I do not prescribe to the idea that my evidence-based opinion to the question “Should we have 30% MPA coverage” is of greater worth that other people’s, especially since my livelihood is totally not dependent on whether a new MPA pops up here or there.


In conclusion, if I as a fisheries scientist was directly asked the following questions:

  • What is the utility of setting MPA targets? 
  • Do MPAs need to be No Take Zones (NTZs)? 
  • What is the utility and wisdom of creating large ocean MPAs?

I would offer my response after a review of the literature (as done by esteemed colleagues, Serge Garcia, Nobuyuki Yagi, Chris Costello, Doug Butterworth, Kevern Cochrane, Magnus Johnson, Andrew Rosenberg, John Tanzer) more in the above style of Robert Kearney with a similar flair here of Magnus Johnson:

“The misery that has historically been caused by unaccountable philanthropic organizations imposing what they thought best for “ignorant natives” is something we should be ashamed of. I hope we don’t seek to replicate the same in the marine world.”

and less in the style of Lubchenco and Grorod-Colvert (2015) and here below of Chris Costello:

“Most nature reserves on land are accomplished by the private sector. NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and individuals like Ted Turner provide enormous conservation benefits by buying parcels of land and removing most extractive uses. The traditional conservationist’s approach is to fight legal battles to implement them. An alternative is to allocate spatial rights to communities, cooperatives, individuals, fishing firms, etc. which they can sell or lease. This provides a platform for “private MPAs” to be established, just like terrestrial conservation. In a recently published study, Dan Kaffine and I found that creating “private MPA networks” would be significantly cheaper to achieve, and could be much more palatable to all parties because such networks tend to benefit adjacent fishing areas. From this point of view, the key challenge for government is to design and allocate spatial zones to make private MPA networks possible, while paying careful attention to distributional effects, equity, unintended consequences, etc.”

My reading is that Johnson is progressing the type of realization that the Nature editors and Saltelli and Funtowicz are asking for (understanding the plurality of legitimate worldviews, and the power of the elite over the majority) while Costello appeals to the elitist capitalistic view that we should let the rich people sort out the world’s conservation problems. Who is right? That’s for the people to decide.

As mentioned, I have great respect for the work of Lubchenco and Grorod-Colvert and marine ecologists everywhere. However, as responsible scientists in the Age of Trump, I believe it is imperative that we understand the power of our scientific framing and role of our science communication. One of the essential virtues of science was previously articulated by the philosopher Karl Popper in his saying: “I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort we may get nearer to the truth.

[1] As a progressive American (albeit living in Norway) who adamantly supported and voted for Hillary Clinton, it hurts me to think that the Left ideologically “left behind” so many Americans. As we Progressives lick our wounds of the devastating defeat to Trump, we must discuss how to rebound in an inclusive way where we put human, social and environmental values first, not special interests hell-bent on perpetual economic growth and corporate lobbies.

[2] This concept is well-known as the ”demarcation problem” in the Philosophy of Science.


Strategic Paper on Marine Integrated Ecosystem Assessments

PDF Link HERE: Strategic Paper Blue Growth and Integrated Ecosystem Assmt

I have written a strategic paper with colleagues form the Institute of Marine Research, the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, CSIRO (Australia) NOAA (USA), and Dalhousie University.

Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) is a framework for organizing data, methods and science in order to inform decision makers in marine Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) at multiple scales and across sectors. IEAs, now practiced at the national level in Europe, North America and Australia, are also a platform for dialogue and interactions among scientists, policy-makers and stakeholders. There are many options to address changes in the ecosystem, however, these options must be considered within the context of institutional, societal and legal processes in realization that these processes are intertwined in a co-production frame. Since an IEA is a knowledge-based framework designed to serve decision-makers and society, it is imperative that our methodology is able to merge the state-of-the-art analytical approaches used in the natural sciences with the methods used in economics, humanities and legal analysis, while considering important feedback and framing from the user communities the IEA serves.

The vehicle for these research needs is crucial. We want to see directed collaboration among:

• natural scientists

• data modellers

• philosophers of science

• legal scholars

• social scientists

• economists

• science-policy scholars

• marine conservation groups

• marine and maritime industry leaders

• local and regional management

• public representatives

• fishermen and fish-processing representatives

Read it here: Strategic Paper Blue Growth and Integrated Ecosystem Assmt


New Post-Normal Science-inspired course at UiB

Professor II Andrea Saltelli will hold a course “Numbers for policy: Practical problems in quantification” 13. March – 17. March 2017 at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Bergen, Norway.

This Advanced course directed towards PhD-candidates and postdoctoral fellows in quantitative sciences and in particular fields of research that produce evidence for public policy and decision making. Students from both the natural sciences, social sciences and health sciences are welcome.

The course introduces concepts of responsible quantification as an antidote to inconsiderate use of numbers both within and without academia. It shows pitfalls to be avoided and offers – with example – tools and recipes for reasonable use of quantitative methods.

More info Here!

Future Earth workshop: TRANSDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH DESIGN Stockholm Nov 22-23, 2016








I attended the Future Earth course on Transdisciplinary research co-design November 22-23, 2016 held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. I’m very grateful for the travel stipend I received fro Future Earth Norway, thank you!

I was keen on participating in this course/workshop since my current projects and research passions rest on the foundation of excellent transdisciplinary approaches and design. As a project-based temporary researcher at the University of Bergen, I often write research grants based on transdisciplinary perspectives (9 the past year!). Thus, my motivation for attending was to fill in some methodological gaps in my own transdisciplinary practice through engaging in the course and receiving new motivations, new theories and new practices and modes of working. I am an out-going person and really enjoy networking and interacting with the research community, so I was very glad when this unique opportunity arose to discuss transdisciplinary research design within the Future Earth network.

I’m a “newbie” to the Future Earth network. My first encounter with Future Earth was this past autumn when I participated in the Future Earth/IMBER workshop in Bergen September 1-2, 2016. There I met Wendy Broadgate (Global Hub Director, Sweden) and Leonie Goodwin (Future Earth Norway). That workshop was helpful for me to place my inter- and transdisciplinary work in the Future Earth context for the first time. I think my work on marine integrated ecosystem assessments and issues of GMO salmon work are examples of the potential for solid and excellent transdisciplinary co-designed research.

One of the current research proposals I’m a partner in is about the potential of a marketable genetically-modified sterile salmon. In the responsible research and innovation (RRI) work package that I lead in this project proposal, it is imperative that public engagement and stakeholder outreach occurs often and early in the process of this new biotechnology, and through different ways and modes of interaction. This is because the consequences of this technology, if successful scientifically and legally, will affect Norwegians (or consumers in export countries). My concern is that if this product would come on the market before a proper public dialogue takes place, the Norwegian citizens will would not have been able to have a say in this process. Then we run the risk of a technological lock-in that was never wanted to begin with.


New ideas, new practices

Through the introductory lectures by Florina Schneider and Tobias Buser, I gained new ideas on how to do stakeholder mapping and how to ensure the correct stakeholders are involved of the correct time. For example, the stakeholder power/interest grid was a new way for me to place stakeholders (Fig 1. left grid) and then analyze how to engage my project’s stakeholders (Fig. 1 right grid).



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Figure 1: The power/interest grid allows for mapping stakeholders/actors in relation to their interest and power on a certain topic (left panel) and then relate those stakeholders to different types of engagement or involvement in the topic. We also did a role-playing game in which I volunteered to be the “Project Leader” and other volunteers were the stakeholders for the imaginary project I was leading. I had to physically place “my” stakeholders in a circle, where the stakeholders closest to the center were the ones I thought had most power/interest in “my” project.

Here you can see the video recording of the stakeholder power analysis role-playing game:

It was fun because also the stakeholders had a literal “voice” and were able to speak and advocate for themselves and their significance in “my” project. A very nice activity to illustrate project/stakeholder relational design!


Another new methodological concept that I learned was the mapping of intensities of stakeholder interactions. Although it is intuitive and theorectically sound to involve stakeholders in research design, I had not thought of characterizing the nuances and strengths of interactions before.



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I enjoyed hearing about other participants’ ideas and examples of have co-design projects, which allowed me to see the breadth in the topics that are relevant for co-design. For my philosophical taste, there was not enough time (or time at all) allocated to a critical look at transdisciplinarity, like “what do we lose” when we come out of the “ivory tower” into society, contrasted with the positivist “what do we gain?” arguments. I find this topic important when engaging and gaining credibility with natural and technical scientists who do not have a transdisciplinary background. If the workshop had a couple more hours, we could have pondered also these topics together.

In the feedback part of the workshop on the second day, I was very fortunate to have one-on-one discussions with Asher Minns (Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia) and Professor Emeritius Tim O’Riordan about my research design. It was great to be able to explain my very “Norwegian” topic of CRISPR salmon to scholars who understand and have practiced transdisciplinary and public engage20161123_142825ment methods. One of the things I like most about transdisciplinary researchers is that they are not experts in the specific fields of the natural or technical science research, but everybody, by virtue of the common epistemological, sociological and political complexities, is able to engage on the common science-society level. Asher and Tim where able to understand my transdisicplinary challenge in the CRISPR salmon topic and gave great insights that I speedily wrote down to apply in my projects, including the dCod 1.0 project where I am currently part-time employed.

Future Earth: Filling the institutional gap of transdisciplinary practice

In my opinion, there is a lack of competency in stakeholder engagement, including best practices from social science and transdisciplinary research design in many Norwegian science institutions. This has been the case despite the acute need for these competencies and practices, especially in boundary organizations that are producing knowledge to be used by local or regional managers, like the Institute of Marine Research (Norway’s largest research institution). It wasn’t until mid-way through my PhD dissertation that I became aware of the importance of the social sciences and humanities in the practice of resource management. It has been an uphill effort to get funding for projects that could start exploring and implementing practical solutions for transdisciplinarity in marine science and resource management, and because of the renewed sense of importance I felt in this Future Earth course, I will not give up!