What do you think of when you think of fall? Back to school? Pumpkin spice lattes? Raking leaves? That first chilly nip in the air?
Here at NIH’s Office of Science Policy, our thoughts turn to National Biosafety Month! This year’s annual event will feature an important new resource and additional opportunities for stakeholders to engage in a dialogue with NIH about biosafety. During National Biosafety Month, we encourage institutions to highlight the importance of biosafety and to undertake activities to strengthen their biosafety programs. In past years during National Biosafety Months, NIH has promoted themes such as transparency, laboratory accountability, and public engagement. This year, our theme is “promoting biosafety through good governance.”
A recent activity of the Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel (FESAP) has been the development of a document articulating guiding principles and best practices for biosafety and biosecurity governance. Just in time for National Biosafety Month, this document, “Guiding Principles for Biosafety Governance”, is now available. A wealth of other resources that institutions may also find useful can be found, on the S3: Science, Safety, Security website. I encourage you to take a look at these resources and determine what best practices might benefit your institution.
OSP has also been very active of late with respect to the future direction of biosafety oversight. This past July, we held a workshop to examine the current biosafety oversight framework, and discuss the future direction of biosafety oversight given the emergence of new technologies in the life sciences and the evolution in our understanding of risk and safety. In addition, OSP staff will be participating in a town hall meeting with biosafety professionals at the ABSA International 60th Annual Biological Safety conference in Albuquerque in October to follow-up on some of themes that were raised at the workshop. Stakeholders are also encouraged to share their thoughts with us at any time by emailing NIHGuidelines@od.nih.gov.
Finally, all throughout National Biosafety Month, I will be sending out biosafety-themed tweets. Please make sure to follow me @CWolinetzNIH. I encourage everyone to use #NBM2017 to keep the conversation going.
Effective biosafety oversight needs cooperation and commitment from all levels – from Federal to institutional to the individual scientists who are conducting vitally important research. Hopefully, National Biosafety Month will help strengthen that commitment to biosafety, not just in the fall, but throughout the year.