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The ethics of disseminating dual use knowledge
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences. (Centrum för forsknings och bioetik)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences. (Centrum för forsknings och bioetik)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7486-4678
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences. (Centrum för forsknings och bioetik)
2013 (English)In: Research Ethics, ISSN 1747-0161, Vol. 9, no 1, 6-19 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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.
National Category
Medical Ethics
Research subject
Bioethics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-192995DOI: 10.1177/1747016113478517OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-192995DiVA: diva2:601095
Available from: 2013-01-28 Created: 2013-01-28 Last updated: 2017-03-30
In thesis
1. Responsible Conduct in Dual Use Research: Towards an Ethic of Deliberation in the Life Sciences
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Responsible Conduct in Dual Use Research: Towards an Ethic of Deliberation in the Life Sciences
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Life scientists have increasingly been asked to incorporate a dual use responsibility in their research conduct. In this thesis, different aspects of what constitutes a reasonable responsibility in terms of avoiding harmful misuse of research for biological weapon purposes have been explored.

The first study investigated the claim that scientists have a dual use responsibility, and also outlined some of its possible content. Criteria for what may constitute preventable harm were used to analyze some proposed obligations in the field, and it was concluded that reasonable obligations include: e.g. considering the potential negative implications of one’s research and reporting activities of concern. In the second study, the conditions for a Precautionary Principle (PP) were explored and applied to the dual use research context. The study found that the main conditions of the PP frequently appear in present discussions and formulations of life scientists’ responsibility. It was also concluded that the PP is applicable to the dual use field and that it is meaningful and useful as a normatively guiding principle. The third study suggested an ethics of dissemination, based on the assumption that scientists have a responsibility to occasionally constrain the dispersion of their research findings. Three core aspects were proposed for an ethics of dual use dissemination. Additionally, to help scientists understand when constraints may be justified, three corresponding conditions for their application were suggested. In the fourth study, the concept of ethical competence was introduced and explored within a dual use context. It was concluded that competence-building is important in the nurturing of individual responsibility and, subsequently, in achieving a culture of dual use responsibility in the life sciences.

Finally, the discussion on ethical competence was included in a proposed ethic of deliberation, in which various stakeholders in the dual use debate are conceived to participate in communicative processes. It was argued that spaces for deliberative activities should be institutionalized by the scientific community to ensure structural opportunities for individuals to both assume responsibility and share it. Moreover, it was argued that deliberation can constitute a cornerstone of responsible dual use governance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 95 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 866
Keyword
bioethics, biological warfare, biological weapons, biosecurity, communicative ethics, deliberative ethics, dual use, ethical competence, life science research, precautionary principle, responsible conduct
National Category
Medical Ethics
Research subject
Bioethics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-193050 (URN)978-91-554-8593-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-03-23, Auditorium Minus, Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-03-01 Created: 2013-01-28 Last updated: 2013-03-05Bibliographically approved

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Kuhlau, FridaHöglund, Anna TEriksson, StefanEvers, Kathinka

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