The National Academies produces hundreds of written products each year on topics across the entire range of science, technology, engineering and health. Information about all of the Academies’ publications may be found at the website for The National Academies Press at www.nap.edu, where the reports can be downloaded as free pdfs. The best known are the 200-300 consensus studies authored by an ad hoc committee of volunteers assembled for the task, which undergo independent peer review and offer findings and recommendations (for further information about the reports and the study process, see http://dels.nas.edu/global/Consensus-Report). Although other activities such as workshops do not result in consensus reports, discussions at workshops and other events are often published in workshop summaries, websites, newsletters, and other formats to preserve and make publicly accessible the information or discussions from the event.
The reports on this site are all broadly related to biosecurity and are divided into 5 categories:
- Biodefense, Bioterrorism, and Bioweapons
- Education and Workforce
- Public Health
- Science, Security, and Society
Because many of the reports are relevant to more than one of these topics, they may be listed in several places. Each citation is linked to the NAP site for more information and the opportunity to download the publication. Consensus reports are indicated by a [C] next to the title.
Examples of Recent Reports
When, in late 2011, it became public knowledge that two research groups had submitted for publication manuscripts that reported on their work on mammalian transmissibility of a lethal H5N1 avian influenza strain, the information caused an international debate about the appropriateness and communication of the researchers’ work, the risks associated with the work, partial or complete censorship of scientific publications, and dual-use research of concern in general.
Recognizing that the H5N1 research is only the most recent scientific activity subject to widespread attention due to safety and security concerns, on May 1, 2012, the National Research Council’s Committee on Science, Technology and Law, in conjunction with the Board on Life Sciences and the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats, convened a one-day public workshop for the purposes of 1) discussing the H5N1 controversy; 2) considering responses by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which had funded this research, the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), scientific publishers, and members of the international research community; and 3) providing a forum wherein the concerns and interests of the broader community of stakeholders, including policy makers, biosafety and biosecurity experts, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and the general public might be articulated.
Perspectives on Research with H5N1 Avian Influenza: Scientific Enquiry, Communication, Controversy summarizes the proceedings of the workshop.
Spurred on by new discoveries and rapid technological advances, the capacity for life science research is expanding across the globe—and with it comes concerns about the unintended impacts of research on the physical and biological environment, human well-being, or the deliberate misuse of knowledge, tools, and techniques to cause harm. This report describes efforts to address dual use issues by developing institutes around the world that will help life sciences faculty learn to teach about the responsible conduct of science. Based on the successful National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Biology Education and on previous NRC reports on effective methods for teaching about dual use issues, the report’s authoring committee designed a general framework for the faculty institutes and chose the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to test a prototype faculty institute.
In September 2012, the first Institute was held in Aqaba, Jordan, bringing together 28 participants from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and Yemen to engage with effective, evidence-based teaching methods, develop curricular materials for use in their own classrooms, and become community leaders on dual use and related topics. Developing Capacities for Teaching Responsible Science in the MENA Region: Refashioning Scientific Dialogue offers insights from the institute that will help in the design and implementation of future programs in the MENA region, and in other parts of the world.
The BioWatch program, funded and overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has three main elements–sampling, analysis, and response–each coordinated by different agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains the sampling component, the sensors that collect airborne particles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coordinates analysis and laboratory testing of the samples, though testing is actually carried out in state and local public health laboratories. Local jurisdictions are responsible for the public health response to positive findings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is designated as the lead agency for the law enforcement response if a bioterrorism event is detected. In 2003 DHS deployed the first generation of BioWatch air samplers. The current version of this technology, referred to as Generation 2.0, requires daily manual collection and testing of air filters from each monitor. DHS has also considered newer automated technologies (Generation 2.5 and Generation 3.0) which have the potential to produce results more quickly, at a lower cost, and for a greater number of threat agents.
Technologies to Enable Autonomous Detection for BioWatch is the summary of a workshop hosted jointly by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council in June 2013 to explore alternative cost-effective systems that would meet the requirements for a BioWatch Generation 3.0 autonomous detection system, or autonomous detector, for aerosolized agents . The workshop discussions and presentations focused on examination of the use of four classes of technologies–nucleic acid signatures, protein signatures, genomic sequencing, and mass spectrometry–that could reach Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6-plus in which the technology has been validated and is ready to be tested in a relevant environment over three different tiers of temporal timeframes: those technologies that could be TRL 6-plus ready as part of an integrated system by 2016, those that are likely to be ready in the period 2016 to 2020, and those are not likely to be ready until after 2020. Technologies to Enable Autonomous Detection for BioWatch discusses the history of the BioWatch program, the role of public health officials and laboratorians in the interpretation of BioWatch data and the information that is needed from a system for effective decision making, and the current state of the art of four families of technology for the BioWatch program. This report explores how the technologies discussed might be strategically combined or deployed to optimize their contributions to an effective environmental detection capability.
The National Academies also carry out other activities related to biosecurity, such as convening symposia or holding other types of meetings that do not result in a formal written product. Sometimes copies or audiotapes of the presentations or an unedited transcript of the meeting will available along with the agenda and information about the participants. Although not frequent, these activities are also an important part of the record of the Academies engagement with biosecurity issues. Because these activities are not as numerous as those that produce written products, brief descriptions and links to a number of them may be found at the bottom of this page.
Synthetic biology – unlike any research discipline that precedes it – has the potential to bypass the less predictable process of evolution to usher in a new and dynamic way of working with living systems. Ultimately, synthetic biologists hope to design and build engineered biological systems with capabilities that do not exist in natural systems – capabilities that may ultimately be used for applications in manufacturing, food production, and global health. Importantly, synthetic biology represents an area of science and engineering that raises technical, ethical, regulatory, security, biosafety, intellectual property, and other issues that will be resolved differently in different parts of the world. As a better understanding of the global synthetic biology landscape could lead to tremendous benefits, six academies – the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, the United States’ National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, and the Chinese Academy of Science and Chinese Academy of Engineering – organized a series of international symposia on the scientific, technical, and policy issues associated with synthetic biology. Positioning Synthetic Biology to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century: Summary Report of a Six Academies Symposium Series summarizes the symposia proceedings.
The workshop will start to build a coalition of diverse experts and stakeholders to explore ways to improve an all-of-government approach that increases resilience to international chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive (CBRNE) incidents. The goal of the workshop is to document and develop measures of resilience to CBRNE events. Information generated will be shared openly through web-based media.
The National Academies also convenes a range of workshops and discussions. Examples include:
Microbial Forensics: Nexus between Science, Public Health and Law Enforcement (2008)
Sensitive But Unclassified Information at Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence – Roundtable Discussions (2006)
Deemed Export Policy: A Workshop on the Inspector General’s Report to the Department of Commerce (2005)
Sponsored by the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Technology, and Law Program, Roundtable on Scientific Communication and National Security, and Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable. Agenda and transcript available
Scientific Openness and National Security (2003)
Sponsored by the National Academies and the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Workshop on Balancing National Security and Open Scientific Communication: Implications of September 11th for the Research University (2001)
Sponsored by the National Academies Endowment Fund