The ethics of disseminating dual use knowledge
2013 (English)In: Research Ethics, ISSN 1747-0161, Vol. 9, no 1, 6-19 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
In 2011, for the first time ever, two scientific journals were asked not to publish research papers in full detail. The research in question was on the H5N1 influenza virus (bird flu), and the concern was that the expected public health benefits of disseminating the findings did not outweigh the potential harm should the knowledge be misused for malicious purposes. This constraint raises important ethical concerns as it collides with scientific freedom and openness. In this article, we argue that constraining the dissemination of dual-use knowledge can in certain cases be justified because, for example: scientists have a responsibility for potentially harmful consequences of their research; the public need not always know of all scientific discoveries; uncertainty about the risks of harm may warrant precaution; and expected benefits do not always outweigh potential harm. However, the constraints in question are not absolute but can be both temporary and partial. We propose three core aspects for an ethics of dual-use dissemination: dual-use awareness, precaution, and acknowledgment of conflicting values. Additionally, to help scientists understand when constraints on dissemination may be justified we suggest three corresponding conditions that prompt scientists to recognize dual-use material or research, consider the potential impact of dual-use knowledge dissemination, and acknowledge and respond to external dissemination concerns.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 9, no 1, 6-19 p.
Research subject Bioethics
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-192995DOI: 10.1177/1747016113478517OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-192995DiVA: diva2:601095