The speed of research advances and the global diffusion of academic and industrial research capabilities have led to recognition of the importance of engaging scientists in efforts both to recognize and to mitigate the risks and consequences of misuse. Raising awareness across the life sciences community about risks and ways to address them through education is a fundamental component of engagement. In many countries, colleges and universities are where the majority of innovative research is done; in all cases, they are where future scientists receive both their initial training and their initial introduction to the norms of scientific conduct regardless of their eventual career paths. Thus, institutions of higher education are particularly relevant to the tasks of education on research with dual use potential, whether for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, or technical staff.
Although traditional dual use issues are focused on security, the role of scientists in recognizing and addressing them fits well within broader concepts of responsible conduct of research, research integrity, and the social responsibility of science. Biosafety education and the teaching of science ethics that already address responsible conduct provide vehicles and educational templates into which these new concerns could be incorporated. Growing attention to the benefits of investing in research and the importance of inculcating responsible conduct/research integrity as part of building research capacity may expand these opportunities. Although research integrity traditionally has been considered as a set of ethical guidelines of concern to developed countries, the globalization of science and the resulting concerns about dual use now transcend national borders.
In addition to growing interest in research integrity, the lessons from research on adult learning methods [see box] may be able to contribute both a lens and focus for developing strategies to address dual use issues. The potential audiences include a broad array of current and future scientists and the policymakers who develop laws and regulations around issues of dual use. As with research integrity, improving the quality of science teaching can also be considered part of broader efforts to build the capacity to conduct research according to world-class standards.
Online Education Resources
In addition to the work done by The National Academies, there are a growing number of online resources related to education, both those focused on biosecurity and those dedicated to improving the quality of science teaching by applying the insights gained from research about how individuals learn and the implications for effective teaching. Examples of both types of resources are offered below. Please note that The National Academies is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
Biosecurity and Dual Use Issues
Federation of American Scientists: Case Studies in Dual-use Biological Research. The case studies “illustrate the implications of ‘dual-use’ biology research through case studies of different researchers who have done dual-use research and provides a historical background on bioterrorism, bioweapons and the current laws, regulations and treaties that apply to biodefense research. They include interviews with researchers as well as the primary scientific research papers and discussion questions meant to raise awareness about the importance of responsible biological research.”
University of Bradford: Educational Module Resource. “The Bradford Disarmament Research Centre along with the National Defence Medical College in Japan and the Landau Network Centro Volta in Italy have developed an Educational Module Resources (EMR) designed to support life scientists and educators in learning about biosecurity and dual-use issues but also in building educational material for teaching of students.” The EMR consists of 21 lectures and supporting materials available in several languages. “We would like to emphasise that the educational module resource is not a Teaching Module rather it is a ‘Module Resource.’ Conscious that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, our educational module resource is designed to be ‘modified and tailored in order to fit the requirements of different local educational contexts.’” The Centre also conducts an online Train the Trainer program.
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: Biosecurity─Risks, Responses, and Responsibilities. This is a video series whose “learning units” provide an introduction to biological weapons, bioterrorism, and the risk of misuse of legitimate biological research. It also has three case scenarios for the user to consider, as well as links to readings to supplement both the learning units and the case scenarios. Rather than focusing on dual use issues, Biosecurity: Risks and Responsibilities provides a detailed history of biological weapons and efforts to control them. A separate section has additional materials for teachers, including a proposed learning strategy.
University of Exeter (UK), University of Bradford (UK), and University of Texas at Dallas (USA): The Life Sciences, Biosecurity and Dual Use Research─Dual Use Role Playing Simulation. The materials focus on providing resources and discussion questions that would be used to conduct in-person activities with an instructor or leader. For example, the role playing simulation provides an accompanying PowerPoint lecture, information on 16 roles, and instructor notes. The exercise covers issues in research publication, funding, oversight, and relevant policy documents.
Duke University─Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense: The Dual-Use Dilemma in Biological Research. “The SERCEB Policy, Ethics and Law Core developed an online module to assist those involved with the biological sciences in better understanding the ‘dual-use’ dilemma inherent in such research. This module is intended for graduate and post-doctoral students, faculty members, and laboratory technicians involved in biological research in microbiology, molecular genetics, immunology, pathology, and other fields related to emerging infectious disease and biological threats to human, animal, and environmental health. The module consists of a ~20 minute online presentation followed by a brief assessment.”
Projects and Resources to Improve Science Education
Established in 2003, MicrobeWorld is an interactive multimedia educational outreach initiative from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) that promotes awareness and understanding of key microbiological issues to adult and youth audiences and showcases the significance of microbes in our lives. The various outreach methods feature the process of discovery, historical changes in research, and a variety of scientific careers in industry, academia, and government.
Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer-reviewed higher-education online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services. MERLOT’s strategic goal is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer-reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty-designed courses.
Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) was initiated in 2001 under the National Science Foundation’s CCLI national dissemination track. Since then, SENCER has established and supported an ever-growing community of faculty, students, academic leaders, and others to improve undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education by connecting learning to critical civic questions. SENCER’s goals are to: (1) get more students interested and engaged in learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, (2) help students connect STEM learning to their other studies, and (3) strengthen students’ understanding of science and their capacity for responsible work and citizenship.
BiosciEdNet (BEN) Collaborative was established in 1999 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with 11 other professional societies and coalitions. The BEN Collaborative mission is not only to provide seamless access to e-resources but to also serve as a catalyst for strengthening teaching and learning in the biological sciences. BEN resources have been reviewed by the individual societies for standards of quality and accuracy; the collaborative establishment of its metadata structure permits the user to easily conduct productive interdisciplinary searches across the diverse biological sciences topics.
Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) is one of the leading advocates in the United States for what works in building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As an intelligence broker within the undergraduate STEM community, PKAL disseminates resources that advance the work of academic leaders tackling the challenging work of ensuring that the undergraduate STEM learning environment serves 21st century students, science, and society most effectively, efficiently, and creatively. PKAL themes include institutional transformation, human and physical infrastructure, the academic program, pedagogical tools, the national context, and twenty-first century student education.
The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium (BQCC) is a community of scientists, teachers, and learners who are interested in supporting biology education that reflects realistic scientific practices. The efforts in science education build on a commitment to engaging learners in a full spectrum of biological inquiry from problem posing to problem solving and peer persuasion. Many of the projects involve coordinating faculty development workshops that focus on strategies for bringing realistic scientific experiences into their classrooms and collaboratively developing curriculum projects.