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Jason Delborne


Jordan Hall Addition 5221



A.B., Stanford University (1993)
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley (2005)

Research Interests

Science, Technology, and Society (STS); Science & Technology Policy; Genetic Engineering and Society; Politicized Scientific Controversies; Environmental Policy


NR571: Current Issues in Natural Resources Policy
GES508: Emerging Technologies and Society

Area(s) of Expertise

Science, Technology, and Society (STS), Environmental Policy


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Date: 01/01/23 - 6/30/25
Amount: $499,863.00
Funding Agencies: US Fish & Wildlife Service

The project takes the first step in exploring the complex, socio-political environment that will determine the eventual success or failure of genetic biocontrol technologies to contribute to responsible aquatic invasive species management in the Great Lakes Region. Activities will engage key stakeholders not just to inform them, but to invite them to participate in governing this emerging area of research and development. An Advisory Board will guide our selection of stakeholders and the specific formats of our engagement. Key outputs of this project will include recommendations for expanding engagement to broader publics and communities, identifying education and outreach needs, and facilitating stronger connections between scientists and diverse communities.

Date: 09/01/18 - 8/31/24
Amount: $2,997,865.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Challenges at the FEW nexus are not simply technological, but convergent in the sense of spanning technical, ecological, social, political, and ethical issues. The field of biotechnology is evolving rapidly - and with it, the potential for creating a diverse array of powerful future products that could intentionally and unintentionally impact FEW systems. Depending on what products are developed and how those products are deployed, biotechnology could have a positive or negative impact on all 3 of these systems. Wise decisions will require leaders who can integrate knowledge from engineering, design, natural sciences, and social sciences. We will train STEM graduate students to respond to these challenges by conducting convergent research aimed at development, and assessment of biotechnologies to improve services provided by FEW systems. We will train our students to engage with non-scientists to elevate societal discourse about biotechnology. We will recruit 3 cohorts with emphasis on students who have shown a passion for crossing between natural and social sciences. We will work with the NCSU Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity in recruiting students from underrepresented minority groups. Cohorts will have 6 students who will take a minor in Genetic Engineering and Society (GES). They will receive PhDs in established graduate programs such as Plant Biol, Chem & Biomol Engr, Econ, Public Adm, Entomol, Plant Path, Communication, Rhetoric & Digital Media, Forestry & Environ Res, Crop & Soil Sci, and Genetics. For students in natural science PhD programs, at least 1 thesis committee member will be from a social sciences program and vice versa for students in social sciences. For all students, at least 1 thesis chapter will demonstrate scholarship across natural and social sciences. The disciplinary breadth of our proposed NRT is very broad, so we will focus student projects narrowly on a specific biotechnology product that impact FEW systems. When they first arrive at NCSU, cohorts will participate in a training program off campus where they will be exposed to the issues they will address. Students will carry out a group project in the focus area of the cohort to continue team development. To fulfill the GES minor, students will take 3 specially designed courses: Plant Genetics & Physiology, Science Communication & Engagement, Policy & Systems Modeling. There are no NRT-eligible institutions partnering on this project outside of an evaluation role.

Date: 02/17/20 - 6/30/24
Amount: $556,249.00
Funding Agencies: Game-Changing Research Incentive Program for Plant Sciences (GRIP4PSI)

More than a third of crop yields are currently lost due to abiotic and biotic stressors such as drought, pests, and disease. These stressors are expected to worsen in a warmer, drier future, resulting in crop yields further declining ~25%; however, breeding is only expected to rescue 7-15% of that loss [1]. The plant microbiome is a new avenue of plant management that may help fill this gap. All plants have fungi living inside their leaves (“foliar fungal endophytes”). This is an ancient and intimate relationship in which the fungi affect plant physiology, biotic and abiotic stress tolerance, and productivity. For example, some foliar fungi prevent or delay onset of major yield-limiting diseases caused by pathogens such as Fusarium head blight [2]. Foliar endophytes also reduce plant water loss by up to half and delay wilting by several weeks [3, 4]. Endophyte effects on plants occur via diverse genes and metabolites, including genes involved in stress responses and plant defense [5]. Genes and metabolites also predict how interactions in fungal consortia affect host stress responses, which is important for developing field inoculations [6]. Because newly emergent leaves lack fungi, endophytes are also an attractive target for manipulation (particularly compared to soils, where competition with the existing microbial community inhibits microbial additives). We propose to address the role of endophytic “mycobiomes” in stress tolerance of five North Carolina food, fiber, and fuel crops (corn, hemp, soybean, switchgrass, wheat), and to develop tools that can push this field beyond its current limits. Our major objectives (Fig. 1) are to: 1. Identify key microbiome scales to optimally manage endophytes 2. Determine fungal mechanisms via greenhouse tests, modeling, and genetic engineering 3. Build tools for field detection of endophytes 4. Understand the regulatory environment and engage diverse stakeholders Results of these objectives will allow us to make significant progress in both understanding the basic biology of plant-fungal interactions and managing those interactions in real-world settings. Our extension efforts will also bring these ideas to the broader community. Finally, we will also be well positioned to pursue several future research endeavors supported by federal granting agencies.

Date: 04/15/23 - 3/31/24
Amount: $2,868.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

This proposal to the Science and Technology Studies Program will support Jason Delborne’s travel to the NSF-organized panel. Panelists were asked to attend the conference and spend time before and after the organized meeting at SXSW in order to interact with participants informally and at the NSF booth.

Date: 08/01/22 - 1/31/24
Amount: $1,000,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Plant disease outbreaks are increasing and threaten food security for the vulnerable in many areas of the world and in the US. Climate change is exacerbating weather events that affect crop production and food access for vulnerable areas. Now a global human pandemic is threatening the health of millions on our planet. A stable, nutritious food supply will be needed to lift people out of poverty and improve health outcomes. Plant diseases, both endemic and recently emerging, are spreading and exacerbated by climate change, transmission with global food trade networks, pathogen spillover and evolution of new pathogen genetic lineages. Prediction of plant disease pandemics is unreliable due to the lack of real-time detection, surveillance and data analytics to inform decisions and prevent spread. In order to tackle these grand challenges, a new set of predictive tools are needed. In the PIPP Phase I project, our multidisciplinary team will develop a pandemic prediction system called “Plant Aid Database (PAdb)” that links pathogen transmission biology, disease detection by in-situ and remote sensing, genomics of emerging pathogen strains and real-time spatial and temporal data analytics and predictive simulations to prevent pandemics. We plan to validate the PAdb using several model pathogens including novel and host resistance breaking strains of lineages of two Phytophthora species, Phytophthora infestans and P. ramorum and the cucurbit downy mildew pathogen Pseudoperonspora cubensis Adoption of new technologies and mitigation interventions to stop pandemics require acceptance by society. In our work, we will also characterize how human attitudes and social behavior impact disease transmission and adoption of surveillance and sensor technologies by engaging a broad group of stakeholders including growers, extension specialist, the USDA APHIS, Department of Homeland Security and the National Plant Diagnostic Network in a Biosecurity Preparedness workshop. This convergence science team will develop tools that help mitigate future plant disease pandemics using predictive intelligence. The tools and data can help stakeholders prevent spread from initial source populations before pandemics occur and are broadly applicable to animal and human pandemic research.

Date: 01/01/22 - 12/31/23
Amount: $82,711.00
Funding Agencies: Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC)

Jason Delborne, Professor of Science, Policy, and Society in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and S. Katie Barnhill-Dilling, Senior Research Scholar at the Genetic Engineering and Society Center, will collaborate with PI Smanski to organize and facilitate a series of four stakeholder workshops during the two-year grant period. The workshops will occur at the University of Minnesota (or virtually if necessary) with a diverse set of stakeholders identified by project team members and stakeholders involved in early workshops. The overarching goal of the workshop series will be to produce a set of guidelines for genetic biocontrol of invasive carp that align with the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework. Each workshop will build upon prior workshops to refine the guidelines and expand consideration to a suite of related technologies.

Date: 01/01/22 - 12/31/23
Amount: $249,961.00
Funding Agencies: US Air Force (USAF)

Biomanufacturing differs from chemical manufacturing as the process operations are significantly different in deference to the lability of biomolecules and cells. Biomanufacturing also differs in the expertise needed for designing, developing and implementing bioprocesses as well as the nature of safety and ethical issues that must be addressed. In the nascent industrial biotechnology sector, the pace of change and innovation, along with societal impacts, must be part and parcel of workforce training and education. Rather than develop separate educational programs for molecular biotechnology, bioprocessing and the ethical issues related to the field, we propose to provide an integrated platform, based on the best pedagogical practices and educational technologies (e.g., including the use of augmented reality for remote laboratory training) that brings workers up-to-speed and helps them maintain the needed expertise to be effective in this emerging sector. BIT (, BTEC ( and GES ( at NC State have considerable experience in this type of education for our campus and beyond, and propose to leverage this experience to contribute to the BioMADE initiative. This integrated educational training will help build a sustainable, domestic, end-to-end bioindustrial manufacturing ecosystem that will enable domestic bioindustrial manufacturing at all scales, develop technologies to enhance U.S. bioindustrial competitiveness, de-risk investment in relevant infrastructure, and expand the biomanufacturing workforce to realize the economic promise of industrial biotechnology. Recent attention to issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and broader societal awakenings of academic and corporate responsibility have raised important questions that reach well beyond our laboratories, classrooms, manufacturing facilities, and into society. The current and future biomanufacturing workforce, need to be prepared for these complexities. The workforce training and education package developed here will be sensitive to student/worker time commitment and be maintained such that emerging developments and innovations can be readily incorporated.

Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/22
Amount: $8,984.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)

Successful insecticide (IRM) and herbicide (HRM) resistance management (RM) in agriculture is contingent on the aggregation of insect and weed best management practices (BMPs) on the farm-scale to the landscape level. Endeavors such as this require significant coordination and collaboration across diverse sectoral boundaries in agricultural production, which invoke social, economic, and political forces to structure the incentives, norms, and rules regarding RM. Currently, these structures are largely designed to serve diverse farm-scale management practices, not landscape level. Therefore, research is needed to investigate alternative solutions that re-organize these structures towards the success of implementing landscape level BMPs. One pathway to alternative solutions is through cooperative management strategies, where multi-stakeholder collaborations within an agricultural production system work together to devise best management practices, and share costs, benefits, and knowledge across diverse institutional boundaries. Critical to the organization of these systems are social conditions like trust, reciprocity, and social capital that mediate the social ties that promote exchanges of information, knowledge, and resources related to IRM and HRM. To study these conditions, I endeavor to pursue an exploratory, mixed-methods network study of Eastern North Carolina “Blacklands” agriculture. Using both qualitative interviews and social network analysis methods, I can uncover how social conditions structure and influence information and knowledge exchanges, and how they may be leveraged to enhance coordination and collaboration, and potentially lay some groundwork for the development of future cooperative management programs.

Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/22
Amount: $25,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

Technological advancements involving gene drive applications in agriculture are proceeding rapidly (e.g., use of Drosophila suzukii or Diaphorina citri that feed on soft-skinned and citrus fruits). At the same time, there are gaps in governance systems and challenges to acquiring underlying data for risk assessments. It is also important to couple risk assessments with studies on public perceptions and acceptance, heeding past lessons learned from ag-biotechnology (1), and enhance risk assessments through informed interdisciplinary engagement (2)(3)(4)(5). Interdisciplinary exchanges may also help ensure that responsible research and innovation is realized in the case of gene drive applications in agriculture. In essence, diverse and multi-stakeholder conversations should be conducted alongside research endeavors aimed to conduct risk assessments for gene drives. This conference proposal aims to inform risk assessment research strategies for gene drive agricultural applications through interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange with diverse experts.

Date: 06/01/19 - 1/31/22
Amount: $16,892.00
Funding Agencies: Wellcome Trust

Decisions involving the potential future use and governance of gene drive technology will require meaningful, empowered and culturally relevant dialogue among and between stakeholders and communities. However, gene drive is a complex science and stakeholders are already using language to advance their respective interests. Emerging empirical work suggests that the narratives, stories, metaphors and analogies used to talk about gene drive may be more important than technical vocabulary. We employ social representations theory to understand how people make sense of and communicate about gene drive through narratives, stories, metaphors and analogies.Through a comparative case study research design we map and understand the language and terminology used to explain gene drive across four case studies: Uganda, Australia, USA and UK. We use media analysis, interviews and focus groups to evaluate the utility of the different narratives, stories, metaphors and analogies and explore cultural differences in order to develop an independent and shared understanding of how to talk about gene drive.

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