A consensus on key terms and definitions, such as “dual use”;
A sense of the range of possible answers for particular questions, such as “At what point should oversight of scientific research begin?”
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) Research, Inc. designed and conducted the focus groups of life scientists. Two focus groups were conducted on February 7, 2007, in Bethesda, Maryland, and another on February 26, 2007, in San Francisco, California. Working with NRC and AAAS staff, GQR developed an interview script for the three focus groups, each of which had between 8 and 10 participants. The script was based on the original questionnaire.
The NRC staff identified and recruited participants to the focus groups. Participants from the first focus group included scientists from the Navy Medical Research Center, George Mason University, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland. Participants from the second group included scientists from Gryphon Scientific, Functional Genetics, the Institute for Genomic Research, NIH, the J. Craig Venter Institute, the Department of Defense, Arizona State University, and MedImmune, Inc. Participants in the final group included scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Stanford University, University of California at San Francisco, University of California at Davis, and Celera Diagnostics, Inc.
The focus group discussions provided information to assist with the survey project as well as planned, future projects on biosecurity. GQR provided a summary of the group discussions (see Appendix B); their key findings included:
The range of knowledge regarding dual use research varied widely: Several of the scientists interviewed were familiar with dual use research; some were deeply aware; but for many others, knowledge was superficial.
There was no discernible consensus about how concerned the scientific community was about the possible misapplication of dual use research.
This lack of consensus is rooted in views about the role science plays in society and the scientists’ tolerance for risk.
Finally, many of the life scientists interviewed, including those who felt that misuse was a pressing concern, were reluctant to sacrifice core scientific values such as transparency, open flow of information, and a desire to cure diseases in exchange for added security.