Workshop on Regional Innovation Biochemical Security, University of Bath 1st May

Interested in how biological and chemical innovation is relevant to security?

There is a one day event on Regional Innovation Biochemical Security taking place on May 1st 2014 at the University of Bath. This workshop will examine the prospect of regional networks on security relevant aspects  of innovation,  within the biological and chemical sciences.  Central to this network, would be those involved in; biological and chemical research, associated industries , as well as those who support and regulate innovation. Our first meeting  will address a range of issues, including; laboratory  safety and security,  forward-looking security concerns related to advances in science and technology, as well as opportunities to improve security through scientific and social research. This meeting will also bring together a range of stakeholders; including scientists, industry representatives, research institution representatives as well as  regulators. Further details about this meeting are outlined below.

What is the event about?

Advances in science and technology (S&T) hold the promise of great benefits for society, including improved security. At the same time however, S&T is also associated with concerns about misuse and safety. This includes, for example,  concerns about terrorist misuse of pathogens, as well as state level development of biological and chemical weapons. There are likely to be further types of concern as the Bioeconomy continues to develop at pace  over the coming decades.

In response, a web of measures  (local, national as well as international)  are under development. This web of measures  is designed to  secure  technologies, hazardous materials, and in some cases even knowledge, associated with biochemical innovation.  This web also includes activities designed to attribute and mitigate biological and chemical attacks. In a UK context, concerns about chemical and biological weapons have led to a range of responses. First, the Home Office  has identified biological and chemical weapons as potential threats within the national anti-terrorism strategy. Second, scientific institutions have become increasingly involved in initiatives designed to ensure that researchers consider the misuse potential of research, and where necessary modify research design and how findings are disseminated.  Scientific institutions also contribute technical expertise to policy making in this area.  Added to this, there has also been investment  in both the UK and internationally into research and response capacity to help make the armed forces and public more resilient to the threat of biological and chemical weapons attack.

Taken together these activities constitute  Innovation Biochemical Security. This idea can be usefully broken down into several related components.

The Three Primary Aspects of Innovation Biochemical Security

The Three Primary Aspects of Innovation Biochemical Security

‘Practice’  involves institutional approaches to implementing legal and ethical responsibilities.  This includes for example, ensuring compliance with relevant health and safety, and anti-terrorism regulation. It also includes developing awareness and vigilance within industry and the scientific community.

Foresight’ involves identifying and assessing  the risks and benefits stemming from cutting-edge science and technology. This includes the technical challenges raised for local implementation, as well as the challenges raised by trends in science and technology for governance frameworks more fundamentally.

‘Innovation’ involves both scientific and policy initiatives which seek to make additions to the web of governance measures aimed at improving biological and chemical security.  This includes  the development of new technologies for the detection,  mitigation and attribution of attacks. It also includes technologies designed to aid the  destruction of   such weapons. A notable recent example are the technologies which have been developed to aid the destruction of  Syrian chemical weapon precursors at sea. Another key aspects of innovation is  the development of new forums to identify and, where appropriate, respond to biochemical security concerns.  An example of such an endeavor, has been the establishment of voluntary security standards within the DNA synthesis  industry; a project which has required both technical and policy expertise.

Who is the event relevant to?

Potential Stakeholders in a Regional Innovation Biochemical Security Network

Within our project we want to help foster discussions and partnerships in this issue area. One way in which we are doing this is through examining the feasibility of regional networks in biochemical security within the UK. The diagram below identifies many of the key potential stakeholders within such a network. The network could include those involved in developing and implementing laboratory or material safety and security policy, those who work with pathogens and toxins, those involved in ethics education for scientists, as well as scientists, social scientists and other stakeholders with an interest in identifying and responding to  current and future needs in Innovation Biochemical Security.  At our first meeting, we have a particular interest in inviting local level practitioners as well national and international level contact points. While many of these stakeholders  may already have institutional links there remains a requirement to assess and consider whether and how such links could be strengthened.

What could be the benefit of such networks?

Such networks could potentially serve a series of pragmatic purposes, including;

  • Sharing best practices
  • Fostering collaboration in the issue area
  • Strategic engagement with policy making at national and international level
  • Building research capacity in natural and social sciences in issue area
  • Education and awareness raising

Want more information?

We are holding the first of two meetings which will address the value and prospect of such networks on May 1st. The first meeting will take the form of a workshop which will involve representatives from the key stakeholders identified above.

If you are interested in attending, or have any questions or comments please contact Brett Edwards (bwie20@bath.ac.uk). Please also feel free to explore our website at www.biochemsec2030.org

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