Professor David Galbreath
University of Bath
The Biochemical Security 2030 project brought together academics and policy makers in order to improve the biological and chemical weapon prohibition regimes response to advances in science and technology. These regimes face a series of contemporary challenges, not least are the transformative and exacerbating impacts of developments in science and technology. A key question within the project was how to ensure such regimes were responsive to challenges at the local, national and international level.
At the international level, it was apparent that there is a need to consider how science and technology review is more action orientated in both the biological and chemical weapon conventions. Policy papers produced by the research team focused on existing and proposed approaches to Science and Technology review within these regimes, the potential impacts of specific areas of development including areas such as neuroscience and synthetic biology and the impact of Science and Technology on specific issues areas such as ambiguities related to Incapacitating Chemical Weapons in the chemical weapons regimes. At the international level, the project also explored challenges raised by the prospect of convergence between biology and chemistry and the increasing levels of co-operation between the biological and bhemical weapon treaties.
At the national level, the project found that, where addressed, states have developed a variety of strategies to deal with biosecurity challenges emerging from cutting edge science and technology, however there remains a need for mechanisms to foster the sharing of information, national level experiences and good practice in the area of science and technology assessment
Finally, at local level, the research identified universities as a potential starting point for those seeking to foster a culture of responsibility within the life sciences. Universities are not only producers of scientists and research, but they can also act as responsible consumers of cutting edge biotechnologies and other products used as part of research, such as synthetic DNA. As responsible consumers, universities can potentially exert a positive influence on some aspects of industry. It was also found that further education and outreach were needed in order to engage the relevant scientific, industry and professional communities, including biological safety professionals.
The project hosted three meetings involving researchers, policy makers and safety and security practitioners to produce a series of policy reports that can be broken down into three interrelated levels of policy making, ranging from international diplomacy to local level implementation.
The papers present challenges for existing processes of science and technology review and outline how institutional change could help address these challenges.
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