Bioterror Threat Perceived as Real but Low, Says Survey of Scientists

Grantees in this story

Researchers working in the biological sciences perceive a potential—but not overwhelming—risk of a bioterror attack in the next five years, according to a survey published by National Research Council and the American Association for the Advancement of Science with funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

Read the press release or purchase the report.

Scientists believe the risk is greater outside the U.S. Yet, according to the survey, most of the life sciences researchers do not believe it is likely that dual-use knowledge, tools, or techniques will facilitate a bioterror attack in that time period. “Dual-use" research is that research conducted for beneficial purposes that could also have harmful applications such as bioterrorism.

The survey also indicates that some scientists have been so concerned about dual-use issues that they have already taken action to try to avert misuse of research, even in the absence of guidelines or government restrictions. Still other life science researchers reported that they had broken collaborations, not conducted some research projects, or not communicated research results.

Carnegie Corporation’s work on the nonproliferation of biological weapons has focused on the acute need for facilitating collaboration between security experts and members of the scientific community. By integrating scientists and policymakers, the foundation has helped to inform biological weapons policy while creating opportunities for international dialogue on global biosecurity. 

In early 2009, Carnegie Corporation support for this work has entered its closing phase. While the threat of biological weapons has not gone away, today its nature is better understood. And, due to the considerable efforts of the foundation’s grantees, critical steps have been taken to improve communication and strengthen the commitment of key stakeholders to work toward nonproliferation.