scientists about dual use issues and their responsibilities to help mitigate the risks of misuse.
In addition to proposed efforts by professional and scientific societies, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), created in 2004 in response to the Fink report (NRC 2004a), has an explicit mandate to “provide recommendations on the development of mandatory training programs for education and training in biosecurity issues for all scientists and laboratory workers at federally funded institutions.” A few universities, nongovernmental organizations, and professional societies have undertaken or are planning education efforts even before there is any government mandate to do so. For example, though certainly not exhaustive, in the United States the Federation of American Scientists, the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, and the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation all have online materials or programs available.
In September 2005, NRC and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy (CSTSP) hosted a meeting, “Education and Raising Awareness: Challenges for Responsible Stewardship of Dual Use Research in the Life Sciences,” that brought together over 50 participants to share information and explore ways to engage and educate the research community most effectively. The discussions underscored how little data exist about levels of awareness and attitudes about biosecurity issues in the life sciences community and highlighted the critical need to move beyond anecdotes to empirical evidence.
Building on the results of their 2005 planning meeting, CSTSP and NRC developed a plan to survey a sample of AAAS members in the life sciences about their knowledge of dual use issues and attitudes about their responsibilities to help mitigate the risks of misuse of their research. In addition to providing essential baseline data, it was hoped that the results of the survey would generate more attention to the continuing challenges of dual use issues and foster additional debate among life scientists about their personal and professional responsibilities. The project used consultations with experts and practicing scientists as well as four focus groups in 2007 to design and refine a Web-based survey questionnaire that could be e-mailed to AAAS members in the life sciences.
The focus of the survey was on practicing scientists in the biological, health, and agricultural sciences working in the United States. AAAS is the largest general scientific society in the world and has more than 64,000 life scientists among its members. Since the membership is largely American