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Policy

Attitudes About Dual-Use Research

by Rochelle F. H. Bohaty
February 9, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 6

Working with AAAS, the National Academies conducted a survey of 10,000 members of the life sciences community to determine their awareness of and attitudes toward research that could be used to carry out a bioterrorism attack. Survey results released last week show that some scientists have taken actions to prevent the possible misuse of their research including cutting off collaborations, shying away from certain research projects, and limiting dissemination of research results. Most respondents favor the idea of professional societies developing codes of conduct, whereas only a few suggest federal oversight. The survey, which had a 20% response rate, also indicates scientists believe there is a low chance that dual-use knowledge, tools, or techniques will be used to carry out a bioterrorist attack in the next five years. A congressional task force last year predicted that a terrorist attack involving a nuclear or biological weapon somewhere in the world is probable by the end of 2013 (C&EN, Dec. 8, 2008, page 6).

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