UPDATE! Apparently an hour after this document went live, the White House released a statement that they have a proposed policy. You can read it here:
You will also notice that the date of release is slated for tomorrow.
Coincidence? I’ll let you decide…
About this time last year, the research world was embroiled in a mess of apparent apocalyptic proportions. A group out of the Netherlands and another out of the U.S. had attempted to publish scientific articles that were deemed highly controversial and were for a period of time held back from publication.
The move made headlines and led to some rather interesting headlines in the public and led to an extended debate on the nature of such “dual use” research. The major battle focused on the need for such apparently risky experimental work. Those who believed it was necessary focused on the need to keep up with Mother Nature and be ahead of the curve than behind it. Those who were against it felt that there was simply too much risk associated with the work and that deadly flu strains could either escape or be used for terrorism.
Over the last year, there has been a moratorium on the work with H5N1 in ferrets and other mammals although that ended a few weeks ago. Yet some labs are still not able to do their work as they await rules and policies from governments.
The policies are designed to:
- ensure the work is not only known by the government biosafey and biosecurity organizations
- monitor and manage the work to prevent any problems arising from the work or, quite possibly, from the mouths of researchers all too willing to overstate their findings.
At that time, in the role of Coordinator at the Emerging Pathogens Research Centre, I had the opportunity to co-author a white paper on what we felt was needed in such policy. We passed it around to other researchers and policymakers and had very good feedback. We felt that it could make a difference and expected to see some hint of our model in these policies.
However, as these policies have yet to emerge, we simply are not sure.
Which is why today, a year after the call for dual use research policy, EPRC has released its white paper to the public. It focuses on a process known as the Institutional Risk Assessment Process (IRAP although I still prefer iRAP) and deals with the need to have a balanced system of information sharing that welcomes all interested parties – or stakeholders if you wish – to the table.
You can click on the image to get to the website and read the reasoning for putting this document together. I know that it is a bit intense at times but I hope that the message is conveyed without too much consternation. I also know this is a bit more of a niche but many have asked me what I do in my real day job. Well, this will give you a little peek into the fun world in which I work.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.