of the research they were currently conducting or managing to have “dual use potential”2

Another way to consider whether scientists are carrying out dual use research is to focus on particular types of experiments that seem most likely to raise issues relative to the potential for misuse. This approach was recommended by the Fink committee in its National Research Council (NRC) report, Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism:

The Committee identified seven classes of experiments that it believes illustrate the types of endeavors or discoveries that will require review and discussion by informed members of the scientific and medical community before they are undertaken or, if carried out, before they are published in full detail. These categories represent experiments that are feasible with existing knowledge and technologies or with advances that the Committee could anticipate occurring in the near future (NRC 2004a:113).

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), building on the Fink report, adopted a similar list of seven categories of experiments (see Box 1-2), which focus on microbial threats (NRC 2004a). Since this is the list that would form the basis for the policies recommended by the NSABB for all federally funded dual use research of concern (NSABB 2007), the committee wanted to learn how many of the respondents were conducting this type of research. Because the level of awareness of the NSABB list among the U.S. scientific community is not known, the question was prefaced with the following introduction:

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) has identified a subset of life sciences research that they believe may be worthwhile but may also need special review. Such research includes experiments designed to (1) enhance the harmful consequences of a biological agent or toxin; (2) disrupt immunity or the effectiveness of an immunization without clinical and/or agricultural justification; (3) confer to a biological agent or toxin, resistance to clinically and/or agriculturally useful prophylactic or therapeutic interventions against that agent or toxin, or facilitate their ability to evade detection methodologies; (4) increase the stability, transmissibility, or the ability to disseminate a biological agent or toxin; (5) alter the host range or tropism of a biological agent or toxin; (6) enhance the susceptibility of a host population; and (7) generate a novel pathogenic agent or toxin, or reconstitute an eradicated or extinct biological agent (NSABB 2006).3


This question was only asked of respondents who were currently conducting or managing research.


These were the categories specified by the NSABB at the time of the survey.

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