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KNAW advisory report ‘Improving Biosecurity’

The KNAW advisory report ‘Improving Biosecurity’ was written in response to the H5N1 debate. An important recommendation in this report is that scientists and safety experts should get together to discuss potential risks at an early stage.

Following the H5N1 debate, the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science asked the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) to advise on how to deal with dual-use research, i.e. life sciences research that can be used for two different purposes. Specifically, the State Secretary wanted to know the following:
• How dual-use research should be assessed?
• Who should assess dual-use research?

On 1 November 2013, the KNAW published an advisory report entitled ‘Improving Biosecurity – Assessing dual-use research’. The report states that the primary responsibility for dealing with potential dual-use risks of life sciences research lies with the researchers and parties in the knowledge chain. Recommendations to take certain measures should be substantiated with reference to the biological or physical properties of the object of research. In addition, they should refer to the potential and foreseeable social and political consequences. The KNAW advises establishing a Biosecurity Advisory Committee that can offer advice on any potential dual-use aspects of research proposals. The government has given an official response to this report.