The Formulation and Non-formulation of Security Concerns: Preventing the Destructive Application of the Life Sciences

Principle Investigator

Professor Brian Rappert

Research Institution

University of Exeter

Project Summary

The more we are concerned about the security dimensions of science prominent today, the more we should consider what we are not attending to.

Professor Brian Rappert

The Formulation and Non-formulation of Security Concerns project explored how those concerned with the implications of science and technology become more aware of the implications of what they are not addressing.

For example, when exploring the failure of South Africa to declare its past chemical and biological warfare programme, which has been forgotten within national and international negotiations, the project identified defensive self-reinforcing and self-sealing reasoning and practices within the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and other disarmament forum that delimit what issues are discussed. The ways in which the South African past programme non-declaration became a non-issue is just part of a much wider set of countervailing pressures and competing imperatives within the BWC that have negative consequences for international relations and weapon prohibitions.

Another aspect of the project considered contrasting applications in human cognitive enhancement in neuroscience, both with regard to scientific developments and social and ethical commentary. Through the project, grounds were established for why neuroscientists and neuroethicists should be concerned about the misuse of their benignly intended work.


Following the research that examined the potential misuse of neuroscience, the project team is currently producing a multi-author textbook for life science students as well as practitioners. The textbook has been funded by both the United Kingdom and Canada and will be available free online in a number of languages.

Further to this, the project team was approached by the provincial Department of Economic Development in Gauteng, South Africa, to develop a concept paper for an anti-chemical and biological weapons museum in South Africa.

They have also been working in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and other user organisations to produce two follow-on impact bids, which will enable them to develop an online interactive archive to hold materials that were collected and analysed as part of the project. The online archive will serve as a resource for science and medical organisations and individual practitioners as well as activists, analysts and functionaries in the fields of transitional justice, visual art and archives.

Contact Information

For further information email Professor Rappert at