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August 3, 2011

Scientific Publication and Global Security

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Independent consultant, Chevy Chase, Maryland.

JAMA. 2011;306(5):545-546. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1083

Legitimate biological research that can be deliberately misused to cause a biological threat to public health, national security, or both, termed dual use research (DUR), poses critical issues for the scientific, medical, and public health communities. To carry out terrorist events successfully, a terrorist or a rogue state must have the necessary information, equipment, and expertise. Publishing information that enables or facilitates terrorism anywhere in the world is of grave concern. The utility of published scientific information to terrorists depends on its quality and level of detail. Publishing “low-tech” as well as “high-tech” research results can present risks.1 Although the biodefense and preparedness communities are generally aware of the potential national security implications of scientific articles, scientists, physicians, and journal editors are much less aware of this threat. Identifying such research, its risks and benefits, and developing strategies for its communication are essential.