Federation of American Scientists Case Studies in Dual Use Biological Research Module 8.0: Public Reaction Case Study
Topic: Discussion

The NSABB recommendations for oversight include education of scientists on the dual use nature of their research as well as how to reach out and effectively communicate with the public. The board has produced a draft framework for dual use research of concern that includes guidelines on how to draw up a communication strategy to present the work to the public. The framework encourages communication of dual use research at various points in the research process from project concept and design to publication of a manuscript. It also provides a tool for assessing the risks and benefits of communicating research information with dual use potential. The NSABB strongly recommends the open and honest communication of dual use research. This is critical as the public will resent window dressing of the issues and attempts to marginalize their fears or skirt around the possible risks. In fact one of the principles for the responsible communication of research with dual use potential that the framework lists is:
  Public trust is essential to the vitality of the life sciences research enterprise. It has always been important for life scientists to participate in activities that enhance public understanding of their research. However, because of the potential for public misunderstanding of and concerns about dual use research, it is especially important that life scientists conducting research with dual use potential engage in outreach on a regular basis to increase awareness of the importance of the research and to reassure the public that the research is being conducted and communicated responsibly.
In order to engage and inform the community scientists can:
  • Write editorials Use non technical language to inform and educate readers about scientific research and how it affects them.
  • Host press conferences or informational events whenever there might be new or expanding research that the community should know about - Highlight the benefits of the work, explain the risks and describe the precautions and mitigating steps that are being taken.
  • Offer guided tours of labs and facilities Let the public see the facilities and meet the individuals who are conducting the research.
  • Provide Q&A or FAQ sheets.
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