Illustrative Respondent Comments About the Role of Individuals
“Principal investigators need to be very careful about possible dual use of their research, and they can be assisted in this by grant reviewers. But formal review and regulation procedures almost certainly will hamper a great deal of innocent research without materially advancing our safety.”
“Scientists need to understand the potential impact of their actions more than they need national regulations of those actions.”
“There will always be a certain amount of risk associated with gaining knowledge about life. Scientists must allow ethics, rather than fear, to guide them in making responsible research decisions.”
scientists should be responsible for training their students and colleagues about dual use issues. These approaches are not mutually exclusive, but each captures a slightly different idea about how individuals might be responsible for addressing dual use concerns. An illustration of some of these views is provided by the comments in Box 3-5.
The survey included four questions to assess views about the responsibilities of individual scientists. The answers are displayed in Figure 3-6. Items with the highest percentages of “Strongly Agree” and “Agree” appear at the top of the chart. Almost 90 percent of the respondents felt that principal investigators (PIs) should be responsible for initial review of their research. A similarly high percentage supported PIs’ taking responsibility for training their students about dual use concerns. Fewer than 40 percent supported the use of an oath. As discussed further in subsequent sections, support for voluntary responsible conduct is higher than for mandatory actions.
The committee examined the question of whether life scientists who responded to the survey answered these four questions similarly—that is, did they uniformly show support for or opposition to individual responsibility. Spearman’s ρ was used between pairs of the variables as seen in Table 3-9. There is a positive correlation between each of the four individual responsibility variables, which suggests that respondents who sup-