CSTSP has a robust bioengagement program in the broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA; includes Afghanistan and Pakistan) focusing on building trust and partnerships between scientists from the U.S. and BMENA countries and promoting common understanding and best practices in identifying and addressing research-related risks.

Starting in 2010, the Center for Science, Technology & Security Policy (CSTSP) at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convened a series of interactive meetings with life science researchers and administrators from the broader Middle East and North Africa region (or BMENA, including Afghanistan and Pakistan). These meetings focused on stimulating dialogue related to critical issues for international cooperation and engagement in the biological sciences, with a particular focus on the links between biosafety, biosecurity, and bioethics—elements of responsible research conduct—research practices, and international collaboration. The project also included support for collaborative research projects involving five academic institutions in the U.S. and those in countries represented by participants in the meetings. The multifaceted engagement led to both extensive discourse regarding responsible research conduct among scientists at a range of career stages and the development of an informal network of scientists from across the region, the United States, and other countries.

 

To download the report on the activity (2010-2012), please go to:

Link to publication down below: “Download Report

Building on CSTSP's past activities, CSTSP plans to engage the resources of the regional network to better understand how life scientists at various career stages in the BMENA region perceive biosafety, biosecurity, and ethical risks associated with biological research. Potential topics include perspectives on: the roles of legislation and regulation, institutional, and personal responsibilities in biorisk management; the roles of other management structures and tools, such as training and mentorship (between peers and by senior scientists); and gaps in and priorities for building skills, tools, and knowledge to support responsible research conduct. Exploring these perceptions and priorities can provide critical insights for efforts to facilitate sustainable international research collaborations and develop regional standards for biorisk management.

Scientific Exchange Program

The workshops series (2010-2012) demonstrated a clear need for more opportunities for career development (through trainings and research exchanges) of early-career scientists from broader MENA (BMENA). Through these opportunities, early career scientists could enhance their research experiences, share best practices, learn new techniques, build their scientific networks, and enable international collaborations.

To address this need, CSTSP established a small award program to help early-career scientists from BMENA countries build core skills through scientific exchange in U.S. or European research institutions. Awards will last 4-8 weeks and offer early career scientists with opportunities to learn about responsible science and research techniques from senior scientists in the U.S. and Europe.  The seven selected early-career scientists project are described in the links below.

Applied ethics in biomedical research: course development and survey research

Early Career Scientist: Oussama Ben Fradj

Institution: Faculty of Sciences of Tunis

Country: Tunisia

Senior Scientist: Irene Anne Jillson, PhD

Institution: Georgetown University

Country: USA

This six-week scientific exchange program comprises intensive, experiential training that builds on and expands the existing professional collaboration between the two partners. The two-part focus will strengthen the capacity of the Early Career Scientist to contribute importantly to the development of bioethics programs in Tunisia, in particular those related to biomedical research. The overall goals of the program are to strengthen the capacity of Tunisian biomedical researchers to adhere to ethical guidelines and standards and to improve national policies and programs related to biomedical and behavioral research and technology. The first objective of the scientific exchange is to analyze the results of and prepare a scientific article based on a policy study related to the perceptions of key stakeholders in Tunisian society on ethical, legal and social implications of biomedical and behavioral research and technology. The second objective is to design a graduate-level course in research bioethics that will be offered by the University of Tunis Faculty of Sciences.

Prior to the scientific exchange, Professor Jillson will mentor Mr. Ben Fradj in the development of a policy study related to ethical, legal and social implications of biomedical and behavioral research and technology. This is the study for which analysis will be conducted and on which the scientific article will be based. The graduate-level Research Bioethics course will be developed based in part on exemplary courses taught at Georgetown University and at academic institutions in the MENA region, and on findings of the policy Delphi study. Mr. Ben Fradj will lecture in two sessions of the Global Health Ethics that was designed and is taught by Professor Jillson. He will also participate in lectures and scientific meetings related to bioethics held at Georgetown University, other area universities, AAAS, NIH and other institutions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

 

ACTIVITIES

BMENA BIOSCIENCE FORUM

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is pleased to announce the creation of the BMENA Bioscience Forum and its Interim Executive Committee. The forum resulted from a workshop series funded by the U.S. Department of State, and held in the broader Middle East and North Africa region.

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Choice-based Exercise on International Collaboration (2011)

31 Oct-1 Nov 2011

The objectives of the exercise were:

  • To discuss and identify key legal, social, behavioral, and ethical issues which may arise during the course of a research project;
  • To facilitate the identification of similarities and differences between countries and scientists about the main research principles and day-to-day practices; and
  • To stimulate conversation between participants on mechanisms of international scientific collaboration related to biological sciences and infectious diseases.

The exercise was designed to elicit discussion on legal, operational, ethical, safety, and security issues that may or may not arise in a research project.

The scenario in the exercise was not based on real events; it was designed to mimic possible real life situations. Helen was an American scientist researching drug therapies and Halim was a North African scientist studying infectious diseases. An outbreak of Pathogen Y occurred in 2009 in North Africa, where it was endemic at low levels. Halim studied pathogen Y and Helen was studying a potential drug target for pathogen Y. Helen and Halim met at an annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections and began to explore the possibility of collaborating. Throughout the scenario, Helen and Halim need to make decisions about how to proceed with joint or independent projects. The exercise included 13 different pathways.

Choice-based Exercise     Exercise Facilitation Guide

MEETINGS & PUBLICATIONS

International Engagement Responsible Bioscience for a Safe and Secure Society, Workshop Three (2011)

31 October to 1 November, 2011

The AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy (CSTSP) initiated a series of discussion-based meetings in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan (BMENA) to better understand critical issues that underlie international collaboration and scientific engagement in the biological sciences. This meeting was the third of four designed to address necessary components for successful collaboration among scientists between the BMENA countries and the United States.

Based on the first two meetings held in October 2010 and March 2011, participants emphasized the need to educate early career scientists (i.e., graduate students, scientists working at a post-doctoral level or equivalent, and junior faculty) about initiating and maintaining international scientific collaboration. In response to this, CSTSP in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur de Tunis and Faculty of Science Tunis, University of Tunis El Manar hosted the third meeting in Tunisia on 31 October to 1 November, 2011 to educate early-career scientists from the BMENA region about critical issues associated with international collaboration of infectious diseases.

Meeting Report

International Engagement Responsible Bioscience for a Safe and Secure Society, Workshop Two (2011)

13-17 March 2011

CSTSP hosted a second meeting in collaboration with the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) on 13-17 March 2011 to examine national priorities to which existing biological research and biotechnology can contribute, the scientific capacity needed to address national priorities, and mechanisms (via development or through collaboration) by which countries can gain needed capacities. The meeting brought together scientists from fourteen BMENA countries (Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Tunisia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen), the United Kingdom and the United States. In preparation for the meeting, meeting participants were asked a series of questions about national priorities, existing research capacity to address those priorities, and current programs to educate scientists about bioethics, biosafety, and biosecurity principles. The meeting also began to explore common principles in bioethics, biosafety, and biosecurity to facilitate international scientific collaboration and address social concerns about the conduct of biological scientists.

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International Engagement Responsible Bioscience for a Safe and Secure Society, Workshop (2010)

3-6 October, 2010

Biological science and biotechnology are advancing globally at an unprecedented rate and are being applied to such diverse sectors as energy, agriculture, health, and the environment. Science and technology output can enhance the economic vitality of countries and regions. International scientific collaboration plays an essential role in advancing the biological sciences and applying their results to societal needs. These partnerships can improve relations between countries and enhance both safety and security worldwide. Successful and sustainable collaboration requires that potential partners have access to trained personnel and funding, and the partnerships are mutually beneficial.

Compared to more developed regions of the world, countries in the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) lag behind in education, specialized research institutions, and internationally ranked universities. This situation ultimately results in low scientific productivity with concomitant diminished levels of economic development and public health. A robust scientific enterprise—both workforce and infrastructure—and strong cooperation among scientists internationally are critical for addressing complex issues in health, agriculture, and national security. Shared principles and practices – including bioethics, intellectual property, biosafety, and biosecurity – facilitate productive scientific collaboration.

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