If my time in the U.S. government has taught me anything, it is the vital importance of checking in on how the policies we craft are being implemented by our stakeholders. Policies should not be set in stone, especially when they apply to fast moving areas of science, and we need to hear from the affected community what is or is not working.
When the U.S. government and institutional stakeholders gathered at the NIH in July 2015 to discuss the U.S. Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC), it was still months until the policy would come into effect. Yet this face-to-face exchange of questions, ideas, perceived challenges, and initial experiences with federal policy implementation was invaluable to providing investigators, institutions, and federal funding agencies with a clearer understanding of their individual and shared responsibilities to identify and manage DURC. As productive as that meeting was, at that point, it was still impossible to predict the impact of the yet-to-be implemented institutional DURC policy.
To leverage the benefits that come with hindsight, and two years of experiences, the U.S. government is hosting a two day stakeholder workshop on September 25-26, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois to engage with boots-on-the-ground implementers of the institutional DURC policy. The purpose of this workshop is to learn how the DURC policy is being implemented at different institutions, hear about any challenges encountered and strategies devised and, perhaps most importantly, facilitate the sharing of best practices among research institutions and investigators in order to make compliance with the policy easier.
The safety and security of life sciences research is absolutely dependent upon the shared role of scientists, research administrators, compliance officers, and oversight bodies. Hearing about the various ways these groups function to achieve the goals of supporting beneficial research while mitigating risks associated with DURC should be a great practical resource to those institutions participating, as well as a great value to NIH and the U.S. government. I encourage individuals and institutions with a stake in research subject to the DURC policy to register, come share their views, and be active participants in the discussions in Chicago. I hope to see you there!