Quantification of Open Source Research Publications in Biological Sciences for Biological Weapons Development Utility, Final Report   [open pdf - 223KB]

"There is on-going concern, expressed both by the scientific and national security communities, about the publication of scientific information that can be exploited in the development of biological weapons. There is little disagreement that aggressors intent on developing biological weapons can benefit from information published in the biosciences literature, and no one disputes that free and open exchange of scientific information is vital to a dynamic biosciences infrastructure. Disagreement arises in determining what, if anything, to do about the publication of scientific information that is deemed to be particularly relevant to a bioweapons program, knowing that dissemination of the same information among legitimate researchers could be essential to scientific advances leading to effective modes of treatment and prevention. The current study was conducted in order to accumulate preliminary semi-quantitative data on the actual occurrence of such information in the scientific literature. In so doing, the hope is to add an objective perspective to a debate that, so far, has been largely based on anecdotal information. The study involved the review and analysis of articles from three respected publications - Scientific American, Science, and Molecular Microbiology - over the course of six months. The articles were evaluated using a set of criteria to rate their potential relevance to biological warfare proliferators (regardless of their technical sophistication). A single issue of Infection and Immunity - a journal focused on pathogenic microorganisms and the immune response directed against them - was included in the survey as an additional point of reference. [...] The results from the study reaffirmed that the biomedical literature contains significant amounts of information that could be exploited in the development of biological weapons. With little effort it was possible to identify research results that, with sufficient time and expertise, could be used to create new and more efficient biological weapons. However, the results also suggest that the large majority of that information is likely to be exploitable only by sophisticated biological warfare programs, typified by that of the Former Soviet Union. Even the results assessed as most relevant during the course of the study could not be applied without significant additional experimentation and resources. These same reports are also critically important in advancing our understanding of pathogenic microorganisms and developing effective medical countermeasures, benefits that clearly must be weighed against any potential risks associated with their publication." Note: This document has been added to the Homeland Security Digital Library in agreement with the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) as part of the PASCC collection. Permission to download and/or retrieve this resource has been obtained through PASCC.

Report Number:
Advanced Systems and Concepts Office, Report Number 2003 003
Public Domain. Downloaded or retrieved via external web link as part of the PASCC collection.
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ASCO/PASCC Archives via NPS Center on Contemporary Conflict
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