2012 Evaluations: Summary, Highlights, Excerpts


Most Tarrytown Meetings participants submitted written evaluations after the 3nd Annual Tarrytown Meeting, and others offered evaluations in conversation.  Participants shared what they liked about the event, what they thought could be improved, projects they will continue to work on, and more. The summary below starts with broad general themes drawn from the many comments submitted. Selected comments from the evaluations follows. These were chosen to convey the tone of the evaluations and to flesh out the summary analysis with useful detail. Future CGS efforts will draw heavily on these comments and suggestions.




A. What Participants Liked About The Meeting
B. What Participants Thought Could Be Improved
C. Topics to Keep in Mind

D. Initiatives People are Involved in
E. Continued Involvement with the Tarrytown Network
F. Additional Comments / Appreciations



The response to the 2012 Tarrytown Meeting was overwhelmingly positive. No one felt that their expectations for the meeting were not met, and many expressed the fact that the meeting exceeded their expectations and was a great culmination of the three. A good number of participants commented that the meeting was more energetic, unique, diverse, and community-building than other meetings they have been to. People expressed gratitude for the opportunity to interact with such an exceptional and diverse group and a good number of participants had nothing negative to say.

The vast majority of participants enjoyed the collegiality of the meeting. People liked being around those working in similar areas to them whom they had never met, as well as people in different areas whom they would not normally have had the chance to meet. People appreciated the mix of academics, activists, lawyers, scientists, policy workers, artists, as well as people of different ages and backgrounds. Many people commented on the energy, friendliness, and openness of everyone to have conversations, as well as the chance to develop new projects and ideas with different people. People did comment however that they wished there had been more scientists, policy makers, and international participants.

A few people were concerned that some conversations became dominated by a small group of people, but a good number of participants commented on the overarching respect among the group. Many noted that there was a great sense of community, only increasing from the previous two years. A good number mentioned wanting to keep this community strong in the future through various means.

Many people appreciated the track system that was new to this year’s meeting, mentioning that this allowed for greater focus and depth than in previous years; some felt however that though they understood the use of the tracks, they felt frustrated that they had to miss one for another.

A few people thought there was too much focus on fundraising at the meeting, but a good number of participants mentioned that they liked the focus on action: on putting together working groups, creating papers, thinking about specific funding options, and discussing ways to affect policy, academic institutions, etc.

A number of participants wished there had been more down time though.

 Many found the meeting to be helpful for their own education and noted that it would directly influence the way that they will teach courses or do their scholarship in the future.

There continued to be a high degree of appreciation for the Biopolitical Cultural Festival and inclusion of the arts in general, as well as for the Communications plenary, though some were conflicted about the messaging approach.

Many participants specifically mentioned that they were appreciative of the skilled organization of the conference and the advanced preparation, though some were concerned about the venue of the meeting for being difficult to get to or nicer than was necessary. CGS received many thanks for helping participants to prepare and for putting together a seamless, successful event.

Tarrytown participants shared many ideas of topics to focus on more in efforts to come, such as a global focus, the environment, class concerns, epigenetics, the government’s role, and the lack of FDA regulations.

People noted efforts and initiatives that they are currently involved in and these spanned across many fields from book projects to activism, art shows, conferences, and research.

Effectively everyone noted wanting to remain in touch with CGS and the Tarrytown network at large and to be kept in the loop about upcoming initiatives. Many want to continue working on the ART, racial justice, eugenics, and synthetic biology working groups that came together at the meeting.





  • This was one of the most stimulating and productive conferences I have attended in 30+ years of professional life. The networking was invaluable, especially the opportunity to meet young scholars/activists and people from different academic disciplines as well as various activist/advocacy organizations. This was a terrific mix of dedicated and passionate thinkers and activists who treated one another and one another’s ideas with respect even when we disagreed.
  • It’s inspiring and stimulating to be around so many brilliant, dedicated and accomplished people.
  • I thought that Tarrytown presented me with a unique opportunity to connect with, in a deeper sense than 'networking', a myriad of intellectuals from diverse aspects of human rights and the sciences. Tarrytown provided a forum wherein these members of seemingly disparate fields could come together to speak a similar language and the cross pollination of concepts and actionable steps was truly remarkable.
  • This meeting was unique in my experience.  I have attended many academic and also theme based conferences.  This was the first one that truly attended to criss-crossing conversations between activists of various sorts, practitioners, teachers, and researchers.   The meeting was not only interdisciplinary, which is itself a gift, but also truly inter-personal.
  • All the sessions were extremely well conceived and generative. It exceeded my expectations.    
  • I very much liked the “track” approach. It gave much more depth to the discussions and a chance to make real progress and forward thinking. Having longer for each session was also excellent.
  • This was by far the most productive and positive of the three Tarrytown meetings and exceeded my already high expectations.
  • The whole thing was FEROCIOUSLY well-organized.
  • The biopolitical arts festival was fantastic - the art and performances were not only thought-provoking and entertaining but they also made me think more creatively and critically about how we campaign and communicate our messages and issues.
  • What I appreciated about TT 2012 is that I could see the results of the previous two meetings coming together in a coherent fashion.  Input from the prior two years was folded into the design and structure of the meetings, which allowed the conversations to build over time and gain layers of complexity.
  • I think a good foundation has been laid for future work. This has been a success at creating an interdisciplinary, inter-generational, and academic/activist collaborative. This is a real accomplishment. Thank you!
  • Great work team!  It’s been really amazing to be a part of this learning community for the past several years.  I continue to be moved by the quality and depth of the exchanges and for the collective’s commitment to the bigger set of issues explored at TT.  It’s been an unusually positive and generative set of meetings and unlike any other academic group I’ve been a part of save for one conference I attended years ago.  REALLY impressive!  Kudos to the CGS staff, interns and the steering committee!



  • The schedule was a little packed and could have incorporated an hour or so of free time each day, as there was a lot to absorb. One more day would have been good and allowed for having fewer sessions at the same time to allow for being able to participate more.
  • Such a beautiful location, and not enough opportunity to enjoy it – more opportunity for physical activity / outdoor events (even a group bike/walk linked to discussion about environmental issues?) Hard to stay focused/sitting for so many hours without feeling saturated.
  • It would be good to include more policy makers and practitioners who are ‘friendly’ to our causes. I worried about ‘othering’ practitioners and scientists, making assumptions about their homogeneity, and overwhelmed by suggesting changes to policy and practices without those allies.
  • A greater emphasis on biopolitical concerns from a global perspective would be very welcome. Specifically, inclusion of issues of "indigenous knowledge" and other topics relevant to the Global South would be welcome. Although there was some international representation, this perspective seemed underdeveloped. 
  • Although I understand the rationale behind the ‘tracks’, I was ultimately frustrated (repeatedly) by wanting to be in two places at the same time (or three!)
  • I personally found the day 2 communications skills presentations “old hat” but I was here last year, when we did similar work. For newcomers, I know this panel was useful.
  • There are still fairly big differences among the attendees in terms of ideology, main concerns, etc. and this can make trying to agree on courses of action frustrating.
  • Further issue to address is power dynamics amongst participants. For ex., conversations dominated by white male participants (talking for long periods of time.)
  • Whole surrounding (the setting is “nice” but perhaps also a waste of money – to be spent in a more meaningful way.
  • I thought the “play” could be interpreted as anti-choice and could be confusing. I didn’t think it contributed clearly to identifying the complexity of prenatal diagnosis, but rather questioned abortion in cases of malformations. It generalized a situation and I think we should avoid that in moving forward in protecting women’s rights.
  • I would have liked more time to address the content side of our commitments--for instance discussing alternative nomenclatures to the social category of "race", or what we mean when we use terms like "ethics"?  But I understand that many of these questions were already actively discussed at earlier meetings.



  • That eugenics became a more central part of this meeting was very timely, relevant and important.  We should be sure to build on that in the future.
  • I believe the issues of prenatal testing and biobanking will be very important to address in the near term in order to impact policy. 
  • Maybe stem cells and chimeras. Definitely the new behavioral genetics.
  • Information on egg and sperm donors and surrogates’ experiences and reflections would be very helpful/interesting.
  • I think it would be good to give the lack of FDA regulations  - or at least a cohesive approach to regulating genetic tests - a more comprehensive look. Perhaps by 2013 the FDA will have something concrete in the works, but as of right now, perhaps CGS could influence that process.  
  • I think that class and race issues re the economics of environmental justice are the most pressing.
  • My own interest is in the relationship of religious ideas and traditions to bioethical issues. Analytically it is crucial. And it is critical to help to create and sustain any social movement designed to draw bright lines. 



  • I am interested in being involved in the ART working group and developing a ‘list of questions for consumers’ that, as a psychologist I can help distribute it within my networks so we can support clients pursuing ARTs to ensure their safety and the safety of others (gamete producers, children, surrogates) are addressed.
  • A book on biopolitics will result from the 3 years of Tarrytown meetings.
  • Fighting gene patenting, principles for oversight of synthetic biology.
  • Organizing scientists, Plugging into existing healthcare activist groups with all of the pertinent issues – genetic testing, syn. Bio., etc.
  • Co-hosting a biopolitics symposium (fall 2012).
  • With a number of participants, we developed the idea of preparing a half-day workshop for PhD students or postdocs in biology that will discuss the history of genetics and eugenics, genetic determinism/reductionism today, and the current-day social problems it poses, with a couple of case studies. Material for this would be shared online. We also thought of organizing a trial workshop at UC Berkeley.
  • I will host a Roundtable at the University of Maryland Law School in the late Fall of 2012 to develop the Biopolitical Constitution, which is an outgrowth of the Tarrytown meetings.
  • UC Hastings is having a conference titled - From Bench to Society:  Law and Ethics at the Frontier of Genomic Technology on February 8, 2013.
  • Continued general blogging, research, etc. (and perhaps multi-media project.)



  • I very much want to be involved in the ART working group, and to be informed about other dimensions of CGS.
  • I’d love to remain connected to the Racial Justice Working Group’s work.  I believe I’m on the listserv that’s being put together.
  • Synthetic biology (I’m on the listserv, so that will happen.)
  • Ongoing meetings on history of eugenics and current eugenic projects as they relate to disability and racial justice work.
  • It would be great to be kept in the loop generally.  I am interested in all the activities.



  • It was an excellent meeting--perhaps the best I’ve ever attended (and I’m not exaggerating!)
  • Thank you so much for including me in this year’s meeting. I hope to be able to stay connected in these issues.
  • From the beginning, I thought it would be important for Tarrytown to have a voice -- a policy voice on the important issues of our time that relate to biotechnology, science, genetics, the humanities, etc.  I remain committed to this idea of a structural alternative to the President's Council on Bioethics.  I hope we grasp that opportunity.
  • Perhaps this is already the case, but if not, it would seem useful to use CGS as a central facilitating organization to direct the media to the correct individuals when critical commentary is needed on a pressing issue.  Likewise, I would hope that CGS would help us (participants) to network with each other--for instance when a question arises that an individual doesn't feel he/she has the expertise to answer, or seeks confirmation about.
  • Keep up the fantastic work, thanks so much for including me!
  •  I think Tarrytown has been wonderful, and I really prioritize it in my yearly travel budget planning. I hope that it continues!

= = = =