OSTP Seeks Comment on Oversight of “Dual Use” Biological Research

Members of the public are invited to comment on the feasibility and desirability of various forms of institutional oversight at federally-funded institutions that perform research involving certain pathogens or toxins.

“Certain types of research that are conducted for legitimate purposes may also be utilized for harmful purposes. Such research is called ‘dual use research’,” said a Notice filed in the Federal Register Friday by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Dual use research of concern (DURC) is a smaller subset of dual use research defined as life sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security,” the OSTP Notice explained.

The term “dual use research of concern” should not be taken in a pejorative sense, OSTP said.

“Research that meets the definition of DURC often increases our understanding of the biology of pathogens and makes critical contributions to the development of new treatments and diagnostics, improvements in public health surveillance, and the enhancement of emergency preparedness and response efforts. Thus, designating research as DURC should not be seen as a negative categorization, but simply an indication that the research may warrant additional oversight in order to reduce the risks that the knowledge, information, products, or technologies generated could be used in a manner that results in harm. As a general matter, designation of research as DURC does not mean that the research should not be conducted or communicated.”

In the February 22 Federal Register Notice, OSTP posed a series of questions concerning potential oversight arrangements for dual use research of concern and solicited feedback from interested members of the public.

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