It is almost universally acknowledged that life science research is fundamentally important and is the basis for advances in medicine, agriculture, environmental quality and a strong national economy. However, over the past several years, the U.S. Government has recognized that some information generated by important life science research could be misused by those with the intent of harming public health or other aspects of national security. This is the dual use dilemma: good science could be put to bad uses.
The NIH Office of Science Policy, in association with its Federal partners, has been actively involved in the discussion of how to best address research with this potential, known as ‘Dual Use Research of Concern, or (DURC). In recent years, the U.S. Government has issued two policies on the oversight of DURC, both with the goal of preserving the benefits of important life sciences research while minimizing the risk that such research could be misused to cause harm. The first Policy was issued in March 2012 and required Federal departments and agencies to review their life science research portfolios to determine if any research projects had potential DURC implications.
The second U.S. Policy, United States Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences DURC, was issued in September 2014. The institutional policy outlines the procedures for the oversight of DURC at the local level and describes the responsibilities of Principal Investigators and research institutions. The institutional policy must be implemented by institutions subject to its scope by September 24, 2015.
In advance of the implementation date, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institutes of Health are co-hosting a public workshop to discuss and solicit feedback from the community on the implementation of the institutional policy. The workshop will take place at the NIH on July 22, 2015, and will include a series of panels where institutional representatives will share their experiences, challenges, and innovative practices in identifying research which is subject to the policy, developing risk mitigation plans, and raising awareness and educating about DURC. The event will also feature an interactive case study that will highlight issues that investigators and institutions need to consider when determining whether research is subject to the policy. This is a unique opportunity for the research community to provide feedback on the policy, and I hope stakeholders will take advantage of it and will come to share their thoughts.
I hope to see you on the 22nd! In the meantime, you can contact staff in the NIH Office of Science Policy with questions about DURC by emailing DURC@od.nih.gov.