As a scientist who has worked or over 40 years to nd cures or inectiousdisease, I nd the idea that terrorists would use biological agents as a weaponto be anathema. It violates the undamental values o the lie sciences that I andmy colleagues hold dear: that science is a vital tool or improving lie and thehealth o our planet and enhancing our understanding o the natural world.My own work has ocused on cholera, a disease responsible or the death o thousands o people around the world every year. During the past 40 years,research carried out through international collaboration o scientists has savedmany thousands o lives.Research with biological toxins and pathogens is both necessary and important,and our nation’s health and security depend upon our understanding their mechanisms o virulence. At the same time, we are rm in the belie that thisresearch should be conducted saely and responsibly. To date, the incidenceo either laboratory workers or members o the public being inected, whether rom laboratory accidents or intentional action, is extremely small. Nonetheless,through the years, saety and security practices and procedures have beendeveloped that have successully prevented accidental or intentional misuse o biological materials.Scientists have not only demonstrated concern about these issues, they alsorecognize they have the most at stake should an incident occur. They are bestable to identiy potential risk, whether rom a laboratory door let unsecuredor the unusual behavior o a laboratory worker. It is or these reasons that we ocus on promoting a culture o responsibility, enabling and empoweringscientists to be vigilant stewards o their science. Care must be taken to avoidbeing overzealous and implementing procedures that don’t make lie sciencesresearch more secure, only more dicult to conduct—with results that maydiminish rather than strengthen security.
rita r. Clll
Chair, National Academy o Sciences Committeeon Laboratory Security and Personnel Reliability Assurance Systems or Laboratories ConductingResearch on Biological Select Agents and Toxins;University o Maryland, College Park, and JohnsHopkins University Bloomberg School o PublicHealth, Baltimore; and President and Chie Executive Ocer, CosmosID, Inc., Bethesda,Maryland. Adapted rom
Responsible Research with Biological Select Agents and Toxin
s (NRC, 2009)