Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Creates Advisory Board for Biosecurity

Magazine article Arms Control Today

U.S. Creates Advisory Board for Biosecurity

Article excerpt

HEEDING THE ADVICE of the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a board to advise federal departments or agencies on biological research that could pose a threat to national security. The new National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), announced by HHS secretary Tommy Thompson March 4, will advise the government on developing guidelines for overseeing "dual-use" research, which has potential for both civilian and military applications.

HHS views the board's creation as the first step in a broader effort to enhance biosecurity-measures designed to minimize the chance that biological research for civilian purposes could be also used to create biological weapons. As the development of biological sciences have rapidly advanced, concern has increased about the possibility that research intended to improve life might instead be used for its destruction. HHS created the board partly in response to an October 2003 report by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council.

One of the NSABB's primary tasks is to provide the government with advice on ways to identify dual-use research and to help develop guidelines for judging the risks and benefits of such research. The board, which will include up to 25 voting members from the scientific and security communities, will also work with scientific journal editors to develop guidelines to prevent the publication of research that is too dangerous for public dissemination while maintaining the free flow of ideas among the scientific and security communities. …

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