BOX 3-6

Respondent Comments Illustrating Range of Views on Individual Responsibility

“It is extremely difficult to define what constitutes “dual-use”; many benign materials can become toxic if used improperly. Principal investigators should be responsible for taking general precautions and training, but should not be held responsible for any and all potential use. ‘Potential use’ is also extremely difficult to define.”


“Some inadvertent dual use research will always be a product of research, but some up-front thought about how to report the results would be helpful. I could envision as part of a short course on research ethics for graduate students that dual use research would be a necessary topic.”


“If we don’t regulate ourselves and something bad happens, the government is going to forcibly do it.”

ported one form of personal responsibility also supported the others. Box 3-6 offers some examples of comments from the respondents, illustrating the range of views among them.

Summary of Key Results
  • Almost 90 percent of the respondents agreed that PIs should be responsible for an initial review of their research and for training their students about dual use concerns (Figure 3-6).

  • Just under 40 percent of life scientists who responded to the survey agreed that scientists should take a Hippocratic-style oath (Figure 3-6).

  • Life scientists who responded to the survey tended to support one or more of the other approaches if they supported one of the approaches to individual responsibility noted above (Table 3-9).

Role of Journal Editors

As discussed in Chapter 1, the question of whether to publish the results of certain experiments that appear to pose potential dual use risks has been at the center of debates over whether open scientific communication could provide useful information to terrorists. Beginning in 2003, following a statement by a group of journal editors and scientists (Fox 2003; Journal Editors and Authors Group 2003a,b,c), a number of prominent journals undertook policies to provide for review of manu-



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