Although the responses to the survey indicate that bioterrorism probably is not perceived to present a serious immediate risk to U.S. or global security, the survey results also indicate that there is already concern about dual use issues among some of the life scientists who responded. Fifteen percent of the respondents (260 individuals out of 1,744) indicated that they are so concerned about dual use research that they have taken actions, even in the absence of guidelines or mandatory regulations from the U.S. government. Some respondents reported that they had broken collaborations, not conducted some research projects, or not communicated research results. The results indicate that more scientists have modified their research activities than some members of the committee expected on the basis of previous reports of manuscripts that have been modified or not published because of dual use concerns.
Interestingly, many of the actions that the respondents reported taking to mitigate concerns occurred before the publication stage; much of the behavior change occurred during the research design, collaboration, and early communication stages. Of particular interest and concern to the committee, a few respondents commented on their concerns about foreigners as potential security risks, which may be reflected in the reported avoidance of some collaborations.
The survey results suggest that: (1) some life scientists in the United States may be willing to consider self-governance aimed at the responsible scientific conduct for dual use research, and (2) some life scientists in the United States are already acting, even in the absence of government regulations and guidance, to protect against the perceived risk of misuse of dual use research.
With a proposed oversight framework for dual use research of concern proposed by NSABB in June 2007 now under consideration within the U.S. government, the survey was an opportunity to assess scientists’ attitudes toward specific policy options. Many of the respondents indicated that they believe that personal responsibility, including measures such as codes of conduct, could foster a positive culture within the scientific community to evaluate the potential consequences of their research for public safety and national security. They also indicated that they believe that individual researchers, professional scientific societies, institutions, and scientific journals should be responsible for evaluating dual use potential of research and/or fostering the culture of scientific responsibility.
A majority of those who responded to the survey favored self-gov-