Research Universities Face “Tipping Point” on Security Challenges for Biological Research

The cost of doing biological research is increasing for universities as they attempt to comply with a proliferation of security requirements and recommendations from government agencies, according to a new report prepared by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the FBI, and AAAS.

American universities and the FBI have engaged in significant collaborations since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the report concludes, but a sharp new focus on biosecurity risks “has led to a ‘tipping point’ of compliance and research where universities are beginning to question whether or not they can afford to pursue certain types of research.”

At the same time, the report’s authors note, “building trust and cooperation between the university and law enforcement communities is critical to minimizing both domestic and national security risks.”

0509biosecurity_report_coverThe cost of compliance and other major themes in the report emerged from a 21-22 February meeting convened in Washington, D.C., to encourage communication between university officials and FBI agents involved in biosecurity outreach. The meeting is the latest in a series of ambitious engagement efforts by AAAS and others to create a common culture of responsibility and support for research between the science and security communities.

“At the first of these meetings on biological research two years ago, the atmosphere was heavy with suspicion and resentment–on both sides,” said Norman P. Neureiter, the acting director of AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy. “At this latest conference the difference was truly dramatic.

“The academics now recognize the need for oversight and security and the FBI people understand that research must move forward without excessive intrusions and regulations,” he added. “An atmosphere of mutual respect and trust has emerged.”

The report, “Science and Security for Biological Research,” was co-authored by Carrie Wolinetz at the Association of American Universities; Kari McCarron at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; Edward You and K. William So at the FBI; and Kavita M. Berger, former project director at the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy.

Links

Read the full report, “Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research.” prepared by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the FBI, and AAAS.

Learn more about the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy.