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Seeking Security: Pathogens, Open Access, and Genome Databases
United States should maintain an endeavor in this field (see Recommendation 3), it will be important for international cooperation and coordination to be maintained.
Recommendation 5: The committee endorses Recommendation 1 of Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism, which calls for national and international professional societies and related organizations to work to educate scientists about the risk that life-science research results will be misused and about scientists’ responsibility to mitigate the risk.
Recommendation 1 of Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism calls for national and international professional societies and related organizations and institutions to create programs to educate scientists about the dual-use dilemma in biotechnology and their responsibilities to mitigate its risks. As noted under our Recommendation 1 above, we believe that although the risk that the growing power of biological and medical research could be applied to destructive purposes is unknown, it is not zero. All life scientists must be sensitized to the potential for the harmful misuse of the knowledge they create.
The committee recognizes and applauds the efforts of numerous professional societies to educate their members and the public about these issues, and it suggests that such professional societies are the natural home for further efforts in this respect. They should expand efforts to engage their members in discussion of the potential benefits and dangers of the widespread availability of genome sequences and functional genomics data.
At this writing, the U.S. government has announced that the mission of the NSABB will include the development of professional codes of conduct for scientists and laboratory workers that can be adopted by professional organizations and institutions engaged in life-science research and the development of materials and resources to educate the research community about effective biosecurity (www.biosecurityboard.gov). The work of the NSABB will provide an important opportunity for the professional societies to work with the government so that the educational opportunities provided and the guidelines produced will be most effective.
The committee recommends that professional codes of conduct explicitly require scientists to act to mitigate the risk of misuse of scientific progress to cause environmental or medical harm and require them to carry out their research with integrity to minimize the risk of misuse of life-science research for destructive purposes.