Fostering the Biosecurity Norm: Biosecurity Education for the Next Generation of Life Scientists


Sustainable education on biosecurity and dual use for life scientists is increasingly recognised as being an important element of broader efforts to achieve biosecurity. To address this issue, a joint project between the Landau Network-Centro Volta and the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre has been initiated to analyse what currently exists in terms of biosecurity and dual use education, but also how such education can be most effectively achieved in a sustainable fashion. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on the findings of a survey on the extent of, and attitudes to, biosecurity and dual use education in European universities, and outline the educational activities undertaken through a network of contacts built through the survey and some of the conclusions drawn from engagement with this network. The paper also outlines the development and optimization of an Educational Module Resource intended to support lecturers in the improvement and implementation of educational material related to biosecurity and dual use. This is further expanded by the authors’ experience derived from implementation tests conducted at universities around Europe, in which material was tested with students and faculty members. To date, the main results from this evaluative process are that students and faculties are generally unaware of biosecurity and dual use concerns, but nonetheless appear interested in discussing these topics and have initiated challenging debates on the importance of balancing factors such as security, research, secrecy and development. However, serious efforts in terms of developing and promulgating education more broadly across the life science community will require concerted actions which look at education but also at other mutually reinforcing intervention points such as funding bodies, authors and publishers. Moreover, in the longer term it will also be necessary to develop new mechanisms and metrics to determine success in these activities and ensure that educational activities are contributing, along with other legal and regulatory measures, to mitigating the challenge of potential misuse of the life sciences in the 21st century.