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The Existing Guidance for “Dual-Use” Research

Gigi Kwik Gronvall
Date posted:
December 02, 2014
Publication type:

Hastings Cent Rep 2014;44(6):S34-S35

Hastings Center
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In considering how to weigh the risks and benefits of synthetic biology, Kaebnick, Gusmano, and Murray pose the question of whether there is scientific research that should not be funded or performed or if there are potentially dangerous results that should not be widely disseminated.[1] Such questions, they propose, require a new set of rules and norms for knowledge generation—an “ethics of knowledge.”[2] They identify two examples of research that might fall into a nonpermissible category, including “research that is aimed at producing and disseminating knowledge of . . . how to produce more dangerous forms of H5N1 and smallpox.” There are already rules and norms to guide the funding and generation of scientific knowledge, however, including research on influenza and smallpox. Even if more rules and guidance were added to the practice of science, potentially problematic, “dual-use” research would still occur, and as a practical matter, it is unlikely that results from those studies can be contained, particularly if the research is of wide interest.



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