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No Easy Answers: Balancing Security and Openness in Civilian Research

No Easy Answers
Reported by
Marilynn Larkin

Posted July 19, 2006


Since September 11, 2001, national and international research organizations have been grappling with ways of balancing openness with security concerns when conducting research relevant to bioweapons. To help elucidate the issues, Brian Rappert of the University of Exeter and Malcolm Dando of the University of Bradford, both in the UK, are conducting a series of interactive seminars for researchers and students in the UK, the United States, the Netherlands, South Africa and elsewhere.

The project, funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, seeks to engage participants in discussions about the threats posed by biological weapons, the relationship between current biomedical and bioscientific research and new weapon possibilities, and the range of national and international measures currently being implemented or considered. Rappert and Dando presented such a seminar, hosted by the Academy's Emerging Infectious Diseases Discussion Group, on March 28, 2006.

Web Sites

Biological Weapons & Codes of Conduct
Home page for the codes of conduct project. The site includes a chronology of the codes of conduct and example codes.

Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
The site for access to the department's technical reports. Announcements of upcoming conferences are also posted. A complete index of all Bradford reports is available.

National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity
The NSABB's site includes list of participating agencies, copies of its charter, and FAQ for dual-use research, and announcements of meetings.


Alberts B. & R. May R. 2002. Scientists support for biological weapons controls' science. Science 298: 1135.

Cello, J., A. V. Paul & E. Wimmer. 2002. Chemical synthesis of poliovirus cDNA: Generation of infectious virus in the absence of natural template. Science 297: 1016-1018.

Jackson, R. J., A. J. Ramsay, C. D. Christensen, S. Beaton, D. F. Hall & Il A. Ramshaw. 2001. Expression of mouse interleukin-4 by a recombinant ectromelia virus suppresses cytolytic lymphocyte responses and overcomes genetic resistance to mousepox. J. Virol. 75: 1205-1210. Full Text

Poste, G. 2002. Advances in biotechnology: Promise or peril. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA. Full Text

Rappert, B. 2003. Coding ethical behaviour: The challenges of biological weapons. Sci. Eng. Ethics 9: 453-470.

Royal Society and Wellcome Trust. 2004. Do no harm: Reducing the potential for the misuse of life science research. Full Text

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. 2002. Strengthening the biological and toxin weapons convention: Countering the threat from biological weapons. The Stationery Office, Norwich, UK. (PDF, 195 KB) Full Text

Steinbruner, J., E. Harris, N. Gallagher and S. Okutani. 2005. Controlling Dangerous Pathogens: A Prototype Protective Oversight System. Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, College Park, MD. (PDF, 543 KB) Full Text


Board of Science and Education. 2004. Biotechnology, Weapons, and Humanity II. BMA Professional Division Publications, London.

Dando, M. 2001. The New Biological Weapons. Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO.

National Research Council. 2006. Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences. National Research Council, Washington, DC.

National Research Council. 2004. Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism. National Research Council, Washington, DC.

Rappert, B. 2006. Controlling the Weapons of War: Politics, Persuasion, and the Prohibition of Inhumanity. Routledge, London.


Brian Rappert

University of Exeter, UK
email | web site | publications

Brian Rappert is reader in science, technology, and public affairs in the Department of Sociology at the University of Exeter. His main interests center on the social implications of new technologies. Rappert's latest book is Controlling the Weapons of War: Politics, Persuasion and the Prohibition of Inhumanity.

Malcolm Dando

University of Bradford, UK
email | web site | publications

Malcolm Dando originally trained in neurophysiology at the University of St. Andrews. He has spent the last 25 years examining concerns about novel weapons for warfare at the University of Bradford. Dando has edited and authored numerous books about biological weapons, including Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons since 1944 and Biotechnology, Weapons, and Humanity II.

Marilynn Larkin

Marilynn Larkin is a medical editor, journalist, and videographer based in New York City. Her work has frequently appeared in, among others, The Lancet, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, and Reuters Health's professional newswire. She has served as editor of many clinical publications and is author of five medical books for general readers as well as Reporting on Health Risk, a handbook for journalists. She is currently head of publications for The Society for Biomolecular Sciences.

In 2004, Ms. Larkin started her own fitness consulting company (, and developed a class, Posture-cize, that helps people improve their posture, increase productivity, and reduce injury.