THE LIFE SCIENCES AND THE RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH
To many in the life sciences community, the 21st century will be the “Century of Biology,” just as the 20th was the “Century of Physics” (National Research Council [NRC], 2009a). A wave of discoveries, supported by new enabling technologies and drawing on many fields beyond biology, is yielding great social and economic benefits and holds out the promise of even more widely available gains in the future. Inspired by this vision, national governments as well as regional and international organizations are creating strategies and making investments to apply continuing developments in the life sciences to help solve challenges related to food, energy, economic development, the environment, animal and plant health, and human well-being (see, for example, African Union, 2006; OECD, 2009; Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2012; White House, 2012).
These accomplishments and ambitions are accompanied, however, by concerns about the implications of such dramatic advances. Concerns include unease about how increased understanding of basic life processes, and the resulting potential to manipulate and control them, may result in unintended impacts on the environment or human well-being as well as the risk of deliberate misuse of knowledge, tools, and techniques from the life sciences to cause harm (NRC, 2002, 2004, 2005; IOM, 2010).
Among a myriad of issues related to the responsible conduct of science, these security issues and the scientific community’s response to them can be considered part of the broader relationship between science and society. Beyond its fundamental quest for greater knowledge and understanding, science is conducted in a social context. Science depends on public support, including but not limited to the substantial funding that enables research to take place.
The ability of science to deliver on its promise of practical and timely solutions to the world's problems does not depend solely on research accomplishments but also on the receptivity of society to the implications of scientific discoveries. That receptivity depends on the public’s attitude about what science is finding and on how it perceives the behavior of scientists themselves. (Agre and Leshner, Science, 2010:921)
This relationship has important implications for all members of the scientific community.
Even scientists conducting the most fundamental research need to be aware that their work can ultimately have a great impact on society. Construction of the atomic bomb and the development of recombinant DNA— events that grew out of basic research on the nucleus of the atom and investigations of certain bacterial enzymes, respectively—are two examples of how seemingly arcane areas of science can have tremendous societal consequences. The occurrence and consequences of discoveries in basic research are virtually impossible to foresee. Nevertheless, the scientific community must
recognize the potential for such discoveries and be prepared to address the questions that they raise. If scientists do find that their discoveries have implications for some important aspect of public affairs, they have a responsibility to call attention to the public issues involved.… science and technology have become such integral parts of society that scientists can no longer isolate themselves from societal concerns. (NRC, 1995:20-21)
The relationship between science and society also means that changing social attitudes can affect the conduct of science. The conduct of research in the life sciences has been particularly affected by the continuing evolution of social attitudes and research practices for both human and animal subjects. In response to appalling abuses, standards were created to govern the treatment of human subjects in experiments (Beecher, 1966; The Nuremberg Code, 1949; WMA, 2008; IOM, 2001). The care and use of laboratory animals is another area where standards continue to evolve (NRC, 2011a; IOM, 2011). As the products of science and technology enter the marketplace, both standards and the ethics of practice become critical for environmental safety as well as public health.
The scientific community, through its professional bodies and other groups, plays a leading role in fostering and maintaining the norms and standards for what constitutes responsible conduct of science. As discussed below, these also provide the basis for training and education about the expectations—and in some cases, requirements—for professional and responsible behavior. As science has become an increasingly global enterprise, a growing number of statements and declarations from international scientific organizations have underscored the ethical imperatives for all those involved in scientific research. An early example is the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge from the 1999 World Conference on Science, a collaboration of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which proclaims that
The practice of scientific research and the use of knowledge from that research should always aim at the welfare of humankind, including the reduction of poverty, be respectful of the dignity and rights of human beings, and of the global environment, and take fully into account our responsibility towards present and future generations,…
and further that
All scientists should commit themselves to high ethical standards, and a code of ethics based on relevant norms enshrined in international human rights instruments should be established for scientific professions. The social responsibility of scientists requires that they maintain high standards of scientific integrity and quality control, share their knowledge, communicate with the public and educate the younger generation. Political authorities should respect such action by scientists. Science curricula should include science ethics, as well as training in the history and philosophy of science and its cultural impact. (UNESCO, 1999)2
The Singapore Statement, produced by the Second World Conference on Research Integrity in 2010, includes the principle that “Researchers and research institutions should recognize that they have an ethical obligation to weigh societal benefits against risks inherent in their work” (2nd
2 Key documents from the World Conference on Science are available at www.unesco.org/science/wcs/, including the text of the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge in six languages, www.unesco.org/science/wcs/eng/declaration_e.htm.
WCRI, 2010). Similarly, in 2011 the World Science Forum adopted a recommendation on “responsible and ethical conduct of research and innovation.”
In this era of global science, the scientific establishment needs to implement continuous self-reflection to appropriately evaluate its responsibilities, duties and rules of conduct in research and innovation. A universal code of conduct addressing the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of scientific researchers, and the universal rules of scientific research should be shared by the world’s scientific community. Furthermore, these rules and policies should be respected by the states and adopted by their national legislations.
Scientists should strengthen their individual and institutional responsibilities to avoid possible harm to society due to ignorance or misjudgment of the consequences of new discoveries and applications of scientific knowledge.
It is the responsibility of those who promote science and scientists to maintain the primacy of moral and social concerns over short-term economic interest in the selection and implementation of industrialised research projects. (World Science Forum, 2011)
In 2012, an international committee convened by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) and IAP—the Global Network of Science Academies (formerly the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues) produced its report on Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise, which among its findings noted that
Researchers have learned that they cannot dissociate themselves from the uses of the new knowledge they generate. They need to take into consideration the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their own activities. They also have an obligation to participate in the social mechanisms, both within the research community and in the broader society, that explore the implications of research and impose constraints on research if those constraints are justified. (IAC and IAP, 2012:15)
These high-level declarations help set the tone for discussions and can lead to a change in attitudes about the importance of responsible conduct. In 2006, for example, ICSU replaced its Standing Committee on Freedom in the Conduct of Science with a new standing Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the Conduct of Science (emphasis added). While maintaining its traditional strong advocacy for the principles of the universality of science, such as the rights of scientists to travel, associate, and communicate freely, the new committee “differs significantly from its predecessors in that it has been explicitly charged with also considering the responsibilities of scientists” (ICSU, 2008:2).3 In 2011 the ICSU General Assembly adopted an amendment to the language of its statute on the Universality of Science to recognize formally the importance of responsibility as well as freedom.
Such practice, in all its aspects, requires freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists, as well as equitable access to data, information, and other resources for research. It requires responsibility at all levels to carry out and communicate scientific work with integrity, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and transparency, recognising its benefits and possible harms.4
THE “CULTURE OF RESPONSIBILITY” IN THE LIFE SCIENCES
A strong tradition of self-governance to maintain responsible conduct in scientific research, often referred to as a “culture of responsibility” (NRC, 2009b), provides the foundation for scientists to respond to societal concerns. The iconic example of self-governance is the response of the life sciences community in the early 1970s to new gene splicing techniques that would enable them to create recombinant DNA (rDNA) from different organisms. Many of the initial discussions, such as those at a Gordon Research Conference in 1973, concerned potential hazards to laboratory workers or the consequences of an accidental release of rDNA into the environment. This was followed by letters in Science and Nature from prominent scientists who called for a temporary moratorium on rDNA experiments to enable an assessment of the potential risks. Scientists, as well as some journalists and legal experts, came together in 1975 in the famous Asilomar Conference.5 The conference concluded that, with appropriate safeguards (i.e., physical and biological containment procedures), most rDNA research could continue. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which had begun its own reviews of rDNA research in the early 1970s, released Guidelines for Research Involving rDNA Molecules in 1976. The guidelines provided procedures and methods for conducting research sponsored by NIH, including a mechanism for reviewing proposed experiments at the institutional level and for adjudicating any cases that could not be resolved there. To extend biosafety procedures to developments in the field of synthetic biology, as of March 2013 the Guidelines were expanded for the first time to cover research “with both recombinant and/or synthetic nucleic acids” (NIH 2012:1).
The activities of scientists and organizations involved in synthetic biology and the response in late 2011 by flu researchers to the controversy over publication of experiments resulting in increased transmissibility of influenza among mammals provide recent examples of voluntary actions.6 An example of efforts by a government to address potential societal concerns as an integral part of a research program is the Human Genome Project’s formal Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) Program (1990– 2003).7
As discussed in greater detail in Chapter 2, life scientists address ethical and safety issues in their work through three overlapping fields that provide norms and practices to guide research: biosafety, bioethics, and responsible conduct of research. Biosafety practices, which are codified in national and international guidelines, have developed over the last several decades to safeguard the health of laboratory workers and avoid accidental or inadvertent releases of dangerous biological agents and toxins that could harm people or the environment.8 The World Health Organization (WHO) first published its Laboratory Biosafety Manual (LBM) in 1983; the third edition came out in 2004 (WHO, 2004). In the United States, the first edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological
5 The Asilomar Conference focused only on the health, safety, and environmental risks of accidentally creating new organisms with dangerous properties.
6 A group of avian influenza researchers declared a yearlong moratorium on further research while international discussions of security and safety issues took place and a number of countries added new measures to address the concerns. A special section in Science in May 2012 provides articles from a number of perspectives (Science, 2012); the end of the moratorium was announced in January 2013 (Fouchier et al., 2013).
7 For further information, see www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/project/hgp.shtml. NIH and the Department of Energy devoted 3-5 percent of their annual project budgets to studying ELSI issues.
8 For laboratory technicians biosafety training is the primary channel for education about responsible conduct.
and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) appeared in 1984; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NIH produced the 5th edition in 2007 (CDC and NIH, 2007). It is important to note that the current editions of both documents have chapters addressing the potential risks of deliberate misuse. In Europe, the 2008 International Laboratory Biorisk Management Standard from the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) provided a voluntary management system to support the implementation of specific biosafety practices as well as ways to reduce the risks of misuse (CEN, 2008).
Bioethics is a diverse field and encompasses a wide range of ethical issues in different national and disciplinary contexts, including basic research, medical interventions and specifically clinical settings, and protections for human subjects in research. Bioethics also engages many disciplines beyond science and medicine, such as politics, law, philosophy, and theology, so that there is great diversity in bioethics education programs (see, for example, AAAS, 2008; Revill and Mancini, 2008; Revill, 2009; and Revill et al., 2009).
The third field is known by various names, including “research integrity,” “scientific integrity,” and “research ethics.” In the United States the term “responsible conduct of research” (RCR) emerged in the late 1980s in response to rising concerns about research misconduct. An influential report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM, 1989) recommended systematic education to promote responsible research practices. In 1989 the NIH issued requirements that all those holding certain categories of training grants provide their trainees with instruction in scientific integrity.9 Over time, the mandate evolved into a variably defined set of policies and professional standards that suggested appropriate subjects for instruction but did not mandate a curriculum or require specific topics. That changed in 2000, when the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Research Integrity (ORI) issued a policy that required all researchers and research trainees funded by the Public Health Service to undergo training in nine core areas of RCR (ORI, 2000). ORI’s policy itself was short lived, but formal programs in RCR instruction continued to grow. Most recently, in November 2009, NIH issued guidelines on topics from which RCR courses could be built. Eight of the subjects are drawn from ORI’s original core topics, such as the components of research misconduct (plagiarism, data falsification, and data fabrication) and criteria for authorship, but the new ninth area is “the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research” (NIH, 2009).
Significantly expanding the potential reach of RCR education beyond NIH and biomedical research, in 2009 the National Science Foundation (NSF) mandated that all trainees supported by, or working on, NSF-funded research projects must receive RCR instruction. NSF is the major funder of basic research in the broader life sciences, including fundamental sciences in agriculture, and also supports fields such as physical sciences, engineering, and computer sciences that play growing roles in the increasingly integrated world of life sciences research (NRC, 2010). Given that NIH and NSF fund international scientists and collaborations, their expanded requirements have a global impact. These initiatives by U.S. funders complement a growing international effort to raise awareness of responsible science and promote RCR education, for example through the series of World Conferences on Research Integrity and the concomitant statements on
9 The requirement was expanded to cover all training grant recipients in 1992 and expanded further in 2009.
various aspects of research integrity issued by them.10 The first World Conference was held in Portugal in 2007, the second in Singapore in 2010, and the third in Canada in 2013.
Where and what students learn about any of the norms and practices depends on their field of study, institution, and stage of education. They may receive formal instruction ranging from single lectures or online modules to full courses; and informal mechanisms such as mentoring by senior researchers play an essential role. As respected members of the community, mentors serve as important messengers for the norms of the profession.
The scope and quality of available education varies widely, but many students still receive little or no exposure to education about responsible conduct of research. The proposals and initiatives to extend the reach and improve the quality of education for life scientists about responsible conduct of research, such as those described above, coincide with and provide a context for a growing interest in education as a fundamental component of efforts to address concerns about deliberate misuse. The next section discusses this development further.
EDUCATION AS THE FOUNDATION FOR RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH
The Life Sciences and the “Web of Prevention”
One of the concerns that has arisen in response to the rapid advances in the life sciences is the potential risk that the knowledge, tools, and techniques resulting from these discoveries might be misused to cause deliberate harm. These concerns come in the wider context of a dramatically changed international security environment, where threats from nonstate actors—including a potential willingness to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—are considered as grave as those nation-states could pose (United Nations, 2004). In the United States, for example, the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the anthrax mailings a month later heightened these concerns dramatically and focused attention on harmful uses of biological agents and toxins on a large scale.11 At the same time, the publication of a number of scientific articles early in the 2000s sparked debates about whether the published methods and results of certain types of experiments could provide a “blueprint” or “roadmap” for those who sought to cause harm.12
It is noteworthy, however, that the research that raised the most concern about potential misuse in many cases also promised important potential benefits. Then and now, judgments about relative risks and rewards were seldom simple or definitive (NRC, 2004; Science, 2012). The difficulties and uncertainties associated with assessing whether and how the results of life sciences research intended for legitimate and
10 The 2010 Singapore Statement on Research Integrity is available at www.singaporestatement.org/statement.html, and the 2013 Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations at www.wcri2013.org/Montreal_Statement_e.shtml.
11 In October 2001, letters containing anthrax were sent to offices of several media organizations in the United States as well as to members of Congress. Five people eventually died, including postal workers who were exposed to anthrax spores that escaped the letters. An FBI investigation concluded that the letters had been sent by a scientist at the U.S. Army Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (NRC, 2009b).
12 Some of the key articles are discussed in Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism (NRC, 2004:25-29). Epstein (2001) reviews the issues and policy options under discussion at the time; Zilinskas and Tucker (2002) reflect the concerns in the security policy community. These discussions have not abated. For example, many similar concerns were raised more recently about publications related to the sequencing of the influenza virus from the 1918 pandemic (van Aken, 2006; CDC, 2006) and synthetic mutations in the H5N1 virus (Science, 2012).
beneficial purposes could be misused is sometimes referred to as the “dual use dilemma” (NRC, 2004:1).13 That term and a number of others associated with potential misuse remain the subject of considerable confusion and debate. Box 1-1 provides definitions and brief discussions of some of the key terms as they are used in this report.
It is important to underscore that the current concerns extend beyond the infectious disease agents that were the focus of past state-level biological weapons programs (Wheelis et al., 2006). Two examples are advances in neuroscience (Royal Society, 2012) and the promise of constructing living organisms de novo through synthetic biology (Tucker and Zilinskas, 2006; Garfinkel et al., 2007; Mukunda et al., 2009).14
Investigators in many areas of the life sciences could be affected even if their particular research poses no apparent risks. Policy actions taken in response to perceptions about a particular field or research focus could have direct but also larger indirect consequences for the research enterprise.15 A shift in public perceptions to see more risks than rewards from expanding knowledge and capabilities will have repercussions for all life scientists. A number of studies have recommended that life scientists need to become more aware of and engaged in discussions about potential misuse of their work, as well as the positive contributions they can make to crafting and implementing strategies and policies to support continued scientific progress while preventing harm (Royal Society, 2004; NRC, 2004, 2006a, 2011c; IAP, 2005; WHO, 2007; IAC and IAP, 2012). The preferred path to awareness and engagement is generally through widespread education about potential risks and how responses fit within the broader perspective of responsible conduct of science and scientific research. For example, the second phase of the IAC-IAP project that produced Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise (IAP-IAC, 2012) will create educational materials, based in part on the model of the widely adopted handbook, On Being a Scientist,16 from the National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academies.17 The IAC-IAP resources are intended to be used by national and regional scientific organizations to promote discussion about what responsible conduct means in practice.
The project described in this report is part of the work of a number of national and international scientific organizations to put such recommendations about engaging scientists into practice. As Chapter 3 discusses, it is also clear from the emerging research literature on human
13 Efforts to foster attention to dual use issues extend beyond the life sciences and research ethics to include other fields of science, engineering, and health; NRC (2007a) provides an example from the United States.
14 The implications of these and other developments are discussed in a report prepared by several national and international scientific organizations (NRC, 2011b).
15 In the United States, for example, the Select Agent Program administers an extensive set of regulations governing approximately 80 biological agents and toxins that affect humans, plants, and animals. For an account of the development and implementation of the program see NRC (2009b); current information is available at www.selectagents.gov/.
17 The National Academies is the collective name for four private, nonprofit U.S. institutions: the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. Further information is available at www.nas.edu.
Definitions of Key Terms
Traditionally, “dual use” refers to items that have both commercial and military applications. Obvious examples are helicopters and computers, particularly high-performance ones. It may also have positive connotations for the “spin-off” of military research and development to benefit the civilian economy. Research and equipment that supports dual use products may also fall into the dual use category; very broadly, basic research might not usually be considered dual use, whereas applied research would.
Concerns arising in the mid- to late 1990s and early 2000s that the results of research in the life sciences might be misused to cause deliberate harm led to a different use of the term “dual use”: research intended for beneficial purposes that could be misused for malevolent purposes (see, for example, NRC, 2004). In an attempt to define what should be the appropriate focus of efforts to prevent misuse, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity proposed a specialized category called “dual use of concern” (DURC), which it defined in 2007 as “research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a threat to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or materiel” (NSABB, 2007). More recently, the World Health Organization adopted the term dual use research of concern for an international workshop on oversight of research in the wake of the H5N1 controversy (see WHO, 2013). Its definition of DURC is “life sciences research intended for benefit, but with results which might easily be misapplied to produce harm” (WHO, 2013:1).
learning and cognition that learners are able to understand issues more deeply, acquire knowledge more easily, and retain it for longer periods of time when they actively engage with them rather than confronting them more passively (e.g., by listening to lectures).
The challenge of engaging scientists in helping to mitigate the potential misuse of life sciences is part of what some in the international law and security community have proposed as a “web of prevention” (Rappert and MacLeish, 2007).18 A central element of this web is the international norm against the use of disease as a weapon, embodied in two agreements: the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC).19 The BWC was the first international treaty to ban an entire class of weapons.20 BWC States Parties are
18 The term was coined by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2002 as part of its “Biotechnology, Weapons, and Humanity” campaign.
19 The formal title of the Geneva Protocol, which prohibits first use of chemical and biological weapons, is the “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.” The BWC’s formal title is the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.” These two agreements address threats from nation-states; the 2004 UN Security Council Resolution 1540 extends the prohibitions to cover nonstate actors.
20 The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is the second WMD prohibition treaty. The increasing convergence of chemistry and biology in research and applications is also fostering greater connections between the BWC and the CWC.
Biosafety and Biosecuritya
Two widely available definitions of these terms are:
Biosafety: “Laboratory biosafety describes the containment principles, technologies and practices that are implemented to prevent the unintentional exposure to pathogens and toxins, or their accidental release” (World Health Organization [WHO], 2006:iii).
Biosecurity: “the protection, control and accountability for valuable biological materials [including information] … within laboratories in order to prevent their unauthorized access, loss, theft, misuse, diversion or intentional release” (WHO, 2006:iii).
Confusion about the terms raises two different types of issues. The most basic is that in quite a few languages the term “biosecurity” does not exist or is identical with “biosafety.” French, Spanish, and other Romance languages, as well as German, Russian, and Chinese illustrate this practical problem.
The more serious problem for biosecurity is that the term is already in widespread use for a number of other international issues. For example, to many “biosecurity” refers to the obligations undertaken by states adhering to the Convention on Biodiversity and particularly the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which is intended to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.b “Biosecurity” has also been narrowly applied to efforts to increase the security of dangerous pathogens, either in the laboratory or in dedicated collections; guidelines from both the World Health Organization (WHO, 2004) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2007) use this more restricted meaning of the term. In an agricultural context, the term refers to efforts to exclude the introduction of plant or animal pathogens.
a This section is taken from NRC, 2011c:20-21.
obligated to “take any necessary measures” appropriate to their legal processes to carry out the treaty’s goals. In addition, countries and some regional organizations are increasingly promulgating laws, regulations, and guidelines to address potential misuse directly or to contribute indirectly through the governance of research and commercial activities.
The concept of a web also assigns an essential role to measures of self-governance, including guidelines, “soft law,” codes of conduct, and other voluntary practices that could have both nongovernment and possibly government components. Institutions such as universities, nongovernmental organizations, and scientific organizations are providing essential “bottom-up” initiatives (NRC, 2009d; Rappert, 2010). These complement the prospects for “top-down” attention or initiatives on the part of international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO, 2005, 2007, 2013) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2004) and from the activities associated with the operation and implementation of the BWC cited above.21
21 The papers and presentations during the 2008 meetings of experts and states parties and the 7th BWC Review Conference in December 2011 provide a number of examples. They also underscored the need for the States Parties to the Convention to take a more active role in supporting the bottom-up initiatives. For further information, see the “Meetings and Documents” section on the BWC website (www.unog.ch/80256EE600585943/(httpPages)/92CFF2CB73D4806DC12572BC00319612?OpenDocument.
Origins of the Project
Since the early 2000s, national and international scientific organizations have been engaged in a series of activities to address the risks of potential misuse of the results of life sciences research to cause deliberate harm in the context of responsible conduct of science. One major line of work has been informing policymakers about the implications of trends in the life sciences for the implementation of national and international efforts to prevent misuse, both in terms of potential risks and the contributions that science and technology can make to reducing them (Royal Society, 2006; NRC, 2011b). Another has been identifying how best to encourage greater engagement by scientists and scientific organizations through education and raising awareness (NRC, 2009d; 2011c).22 The latter activities set the stage for a major new initiative by the National Academies and its international partners to develop and implement a strategic approach to their education activities.
In 2008 the U.S. Department of State asked the IAP to convene a workshop to:
• survey strategies and resources available internationally for education on dual use issues and identify gaps,
• consider ideas for filling the gaps, including development of new educational materials and implementation of effective teaching methods, and
• discuss approaches for including education on dual use issues in the training of life scientists. (NRC, 2011c:2)
The workshop (hereafter the Warsaw workshop) was organized as a collaboration of IAP with several other international scientific organizations; the Polish Academy of Sciences served as the host in collaboration with an ad hoc committee with substantial international membership under the auspices of the National Academies.
The meeting, which combined plenary sessions to introduce topics and breakout sessions to permit discussions in depth, brought together more than sixty experts from just under thirty countries and several international organizations. The participants included active researchers from a range of fields in the life sciences, specialists in bioethics and biosecurity, and, as one of the workshop’s special features, experts in the science of learning. This mix of backgrounds and expertise underscored the two themes at the heart of the workshop’s design:
• To engage the life sciences community, the particular security issues related to research with dual use potential would best be approached in the context of responsible conduct of research, the wider array of issues that the community addresses to fulfill its responsibilities to society.
• Education about dual use issues would benefit from the insights of the “science of learning,” the growing body of research about how individuals learn at various stages of their lives and careers and the most effective methods for teaching them, which provides the foundation for efforts in many parts of the world to improve the teaching of science and technology at all levels of instruction. (NRC, 2011c:3)
The workshop also discussed the similar challenges faced by any effort to introduce new material, such as the competition for space in an already crowded curriculum, or an academic reward structure that did not put high value on innovation or excellence in teaching. One clear message was “the importance of identifying and
22 Both of these reports, undertaken with a number of international partners, include accounts of work by national and international scientific organizations.
supporting ‘champions’ to the success of initiatives” (NRC, 2011c:87). In addition, participants consistently cited the limited number of faculty and instructors able to teach about dual use issues. This led to an extensive discussion of the importance of networks to support and sustain efforts to introduce new topics and new approaches. A number of examples related to dual use that also drew on the research about effective teaching—such as online faculty development courses from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom and the WHO train-the-trainer courses on biosafety and biosecurity redesigned to escape an older “death by PowerPoint” approach— offered potential models for new efforts.23
For all the approaches participants stressed the importance of including plans for post-training support, both for developing and implementing new methods and materials and for sharing lessons learned and best practices. It is worth noting that some models… deliberately include small teams rather than single individuals from a given institution in order to enhance the chances of sustaining what is learned and a commitment to implementation is part of the selection process. The champions…may also help to create and sustain a more hospitable climate for new content and methods. In addition to supporting work at home institutions, some models for building networks of faculty and instructors also bring graduates together after their training for special follow-up activities to reinforce what was learned, while others rely on the normal cycle of meetings that take place in a discipline or professional field to provide convening opportunities (NRC, 2011c:89).
The discussion also included some models for more general faculty development that could be adapted, in particular the National Academies Summer Institutes for Undergraduate Biology Education (NASI) that became the basis for the project described in this report.24
The NRC committee took responsibility for producing the report, which contained a number of conclusions and recommendations. Selected conclusions relevant to this project and the full list of recommendations may be found in Appendix A, but one specific recommendation is particularly relevant.
Build networks of faculty and instructors through train-the-trainer programs, undertaking this effort if possible in cooperation with scientific unions and professional societies and associations. (NRC 2011c:9-10)
CREATING NETWORKS OF FACULTY: THE MIDDLE EAST–NORTH AFRICA PROJECT
In 2010, the Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) of the U.S. Department of State, which provided the funding for the Warsaw workshop, agreed to support a two-year project to implement some of the workshop’s key recommendations. The broad goal of the project was to “develop a framework for an international series of faculty development institutes in key regions around the world with the goal of promoting and enhancing education about issues related to research in the life sciences with dual use potential in the context of responsible conduct of science.” The full
23 Two examples of other dual use–related projects that have taken place since the Warsaw workshop that include active learning are EUBARnet (2012) and Novossiolova et al. (2013).
24 The general characteristics of faculty development programs, one variant of train-the-trainer models, are discussed in Chapter 3.
Statement of Task (SOT) for the project is shown in Box 1-2.
The project was overseen by an ad hoc NRC committee with members from the United States, Europe, and Egypt (see Appendix E). The committee interpreted the “framework” in the SOT as concerned with the design of the institutes and not the development of underlying concepts. The project in fact builds on the concepts related to responsible science and dual use issues developed in the course of almost a decade of work by the National Academies and other organizations already discussed in this chapter, as well as on other concepts related to active learning described in Chapter 3 that reflects a comparably long National Academies engagement.
This report is intended to be useful to a number of audiences:
• Scientists in the Middle East–North Africa (MENA) region and elsewhere who may not have considered the issues addressed in the Institute and want information about the concepts associated with responsible science and ideas about how to introduce the material into their classrooms and institutions.
• Program managers and funders who might support projects related to dual use issues, responsible conduct, or capacity building in the life sciences and be interested in new approaches.
• Experts in responsible conduct who might not be familiar with active learning techniques.
• Experts in active learning who might not have considered how the approaches could be applied to new areas.
It has a strong emphasis on practical implementation and tries to provide sufficient detail to give readers a sense of how similar institutes might be adapted and organized in other contexts.
The BEP program operates in many parts of the world, but it emphasizes certain regions and priority countries with them. After consultation with the sponsor, the Middle East–North Africa (MENA) region was chosen to test a prototype that could then be applied in other countries or regions. In addition to the lessons from the Warsaw workshop about the most effective ways to introduce issues of potential misuse, the committee hoped combining the best pedagogy with responsible conduct of science would be an appealing capacity-building opportunity for faculty in countries interested in using life sciences research for economic growth and improved wellbeing.
The project was carried out in stages as a partnership with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), in Trieste, Italy (see Appendix B). The two institutions’ standing and extensive networks in the region were essential to the effective implementation of the project. Unfortunately, continuing political uncertainties in the MENA region in the wake of the Arab Spring necessitated a number of delays and changes, prolonging the project by about a year. The first phase centered on a planning meeting held at TWAS in late spring 2011 to design a general framework for educational institutes for faculty based on the NASI model; a description of NASI is provided in Chapter 3.25 In the project’s second phase, discussed in detail in Chapter 4, the first Institute was held in Aqaba, Jordan, in September 2012 for 28 participants from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and Yemen. An online survey shortly after the Institute gathered the participants’ initial impressions. In the third and final phase, project participants applied for small grants to implement some of
25 In the context of this report, the terms “workshop” and “institute” are interchangeable.
the content/methods combinations they designed at the Institute in Jordan in their home institutions.26 In April 2013 a small reunion for the leaders of the teams that received grants in Amman, Jordan, enabled the participants to discuss their experiences up to that point and also share their insights about the Institute. Their suggestions and lessons provided important input into the formulation of the committee’s findings and conclusions for this report.
STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT
This chapter has provided an introduction to how concerns about potential misuse of advances in the life sciences can be addressed in the context of responsible conduct of science and the essential role that education plays in fostering the engagement of the scientific community in responses that seek both security and continued scientific progress.
Chapter 2 elaborates on the development and current status of the basic concepts and approaches to education and training in the responsible conduct of science. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the science of learning, research that reveals how people learn and how to use the insights on human learning and cognition to improve teaching practices. As noted above, commitment to supporting the best possible pedagogy is a key feature of the MENA project. These two chapters are intended to offer quick primers for readers with expertise in one but not necessarily both of the subjects. Chapter 4 describes the planning meeting and the first Institute, held in Jordan in September 2012, while Chapter 5 discusses the activities undertaken by participants after the Institute to implement what they learned. Chapter 6 offers a preliminary evaluation of the Institute, along with the committee’s findings, conclusions, and ideas for the future.
26 The project was able to support five grants and BEP provided funds to support another three.
Statement of Task
An ad hoc committee appointed by the National Research Council will develop a framework for an international series of faculty development institutes in key regions around the world with the goal of promoting and enhancing education about issues related to research in the life sciences with dual use potential in the context of responsible conduct of science.
The institutes will bring together higher education faculty in the life sciences as well as experts in related areas to gain greater understanding and experience with methods for effective teaching and learning, develop curricular materials to facilitate education about dual use issues that they will use in their classes, and become prepared to be leaders in their communities on these topics.
The project will be conducted in three phases:
• Phase I: Planning. The committee will organize and hold a planning meeting, which will bring together life science educators from the Middle East–North Africa region with leaders in dual use issues and science education. The planning meeting will help to answer substantive and logistical questions that will guide the organization of Phase II, including issues such as scheduling, language, target audience, and evaluation, outreach and dissemination strategies. A consensus letter report will be prepared to guide the organization of Phase II and to serve as a model for organizing similar institutes in the MENA or other regions. In its report, the committee may offer guidance on the distribution of resources to support implementation and follow-up activities.
• Phase II: First Faculty Development Institute. The committee will organize a first institute that will feature several invited presentations in addition to workgroups and hands-on exercises. The committee will identify the topics, select and invite speakers and other participants, and work with regional hosts in organizing the session.
• Phase III: Implementation and Additional Activities. The committee will work with participants from the first institute to help them implement what they have learned at their home institutions. Small amounts of funding to support implementation, such as the development of new materials, brown bag seminars, or other activities will be made available to at least some of the participating faculty. A follow-up meeting for institute alumni will take be held approximately 6-9 months after the institute, which a small group of staff and committee members will attend.
The committee will also oversee the preparation of a final consensus report that would provide an account of the first institute, the activities initiated by the participants at their home institutions, the discussions at the follow-up meeting of the alumni, and an evaluation of the outcomes. It will also offer further conclusions about successful practices for preparing faculty to teach about research with dual use potential.