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Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences

Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences: Strengthening the Prohibition of Biological Weapons

Series Editor Michael J. Selgelid
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences
    Book Description:

    At the start of the twenty-first century, warnings have been raised in some quarters about how - by intent or by mishap - advances in biotechnology and related fields could aid the spread of disease. Science academics, medical organisations, governments, security analysts, and others are among those that have sought to raise concern. Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences examines a variety of attempts to bring greater awareness to security concerns associated with the life sciences. It identifies lessons from practical initiatives across a wide range of national contexts as well as more general reflections about education and ethics. The eighteen contributors bring together perspectives from a diverse range of fields - including politics, virology, sociology, ethics, security studies, microbiology, and medicine - as well as their experiences in universities, think tanks and government. In offering their assessment about what must be done and by whom, each chapter addresses a host of challenging practical and conceptual questions. Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences will be of interest to those planning and undertaking training activities in other areas. In asking how education and ethics are being made to matter in an emerging area of social unease, it will also be of interest to those with more general concerns about professional conduct.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-39-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    • Introduction: Education as…
      (pp. 3-22)

      The history of modern science and technology is a story that cannot be told without attending to the military, destructive, and violent purposes motivating the search for new knowledge and devices.¹ At certain times, the pace or novelty of developments have been seen as demanding social debate. The construction of atomic and nuclear weapons is perhaps the exemplary case where pause and concern has been evident about what the capabilities of some mean for the many.

      At the start of the twenty-first century, warnings have been raised in some quarters about how — by intent or by mishap — advances...

    • Chapter 1: Ethics Engagement of the Dual-Use Dilemma: Progress and Potential
      (pp. 23-34)

      During the past decade, the problem of dual-use research, science, and technology has been one of the most debated issues in discourse surrounding biological weapons and the bioterrorist threat, and a particularly controversial topic regarding science policy. The expression ʹdual useʹ was historically used to refer to technology, equipment, and facilities that could be used for both civilian and military purposes. Conceived this way, dual-use technology is not necessarily something to worry about. To the contrary, this kind of technology was sometimes considered desirable from the standpoint of policymakers — a way of killing two birds with one stone. Policymakers...

    • Chapter 2: Educating Scientists about Biosecurity: Lessons from Medicine and Business
      (pp. 35-54)

      When looking at the intersection of ethics and biosecurity, we are generally concerned about how we may highlight ethical issues and solutions as a means of mitigating the risks of biotechnology being used for malign purposes. This chapter sets out to discover what we may learn for this endeavour from attempts to teach and develop ethical practice and awareness in the fields of medicine and business.

      These two areas have paid considerable attention to the teaching and development of ethics in practice while also addressing social, professional and national cultures, which is a key factor in the recognition and interpretation...


    • Chapter 3: Linking Life Sciences with Disarmament in Switzerland
      (pp. 57-74)

      For the past few decades, the accelerated development of possibilities in engineering biological agents for specific purposes, as well as the possibility of using them with both peaceful and hostile intent, have posed fundamental challenges to security concepts at both national and international levels. In particular, the recent shift of emphasis in the nature of conflicts and the actors involved poses a challenge. Nowadays, not only states but also non-state actors are known to occasionally enforce their interests violently by the use of arms. The malevolent use of biological agents is not excluded, even though the number of occasions of...

    • Chapter 4: Israel
      (pp. 75-92)

      This chapter examines recent activities in Israel to promote awareness and action in relation to biosecurity. ʹBiosecurityʹ here refers to the sum total of measures aimed at preventing deliberate attempts to obtain dangerous biological agents or technologies and information that will grant the capability to make biological weapons. In other words, all the steps that must be taken to deny access by unauthorised actors to dangerous biological agents, information and technology that can be used to manufacture bioweapons.

      Israel is an important country for examination in this regard. As the 2006 Lemon-Relman Committee Report by the US National Research Council¹...

    • Chapter 5: Japan: Obstacles, Lessons and Future
      (pp. 93-114)

      Japan has a clear rationale to discuss the introduction of ethical education for life scientists regarding its dual-use dimensions.¹ This partly derives from the size of its life-science industry and from the actual threats posed by the misuse of science. Japan has been one of the leading global marketplaces of the life-science industry.² This indicates that a large number of life scientists are practising cutting-edge research in Japan. Importantly, some of them have misused their knowledge in the form of biocrimes and bioterrorism. One of the most prominent cases of such misuse was that of the religious group Aum Shinrikyo....

    • Chapter 6: Bioethics and Biosecurity Education in China: Rise of a Scientific Superpower
      (pp. 115-130)

      This chapter explores ethics, education and the life sciences in China. It is based on work conducted by the authors in two separate but complimentary projects.¹ Barrʹs observations derive from interviews and discussions in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with life scientists and policymakers in infectious-disease hospitals, university-research labs, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Ministry of Health. Zhangʹs study focused on Chinaʹs governance of stem-cell research and involved interviews with scientists, ethicists and policymakers at more than 25 sites across China. Below, we set the context by describing the role of science in Chinaʹs quest to become a leading...

    • Chapter 7: Raising Awareness among Australian Life Scientists
      (pp. 131-148)

      In early 2001, the year of the anthrax envelope attacks in the US, research conducted by a group of Australian scientists highlighted the security implications of the dual-use dilemma in the life sciences. This group was attempting to produce an infectious contraceptive for mice, which periodically breed out of control in parts of Australia. The scientists first spliced the zona pellucida glycoprotein 3 (ZP3) gene into a mild mousepox virus in the hope of inducing antibodies with a contraceptive effect.¹ They subsequently inserted the interleukin-4 (IL-4) gene, which helps regulate immune system reactions, to boost this genetically engineered sterility treatment....

    • Chapter 8: Bringing Biosecurity-related Concepts into the Curriculum: A US View
      (pp. 149-162)

      The decades flanking the September/October 2001 terrorist incidents in the US (1990–2010) have seen a dramatic increase in concern with and attention to biological weapons (BW). The discovery of an extensive offensive BW programme in the former Soviet Union, the unsuccessful attempts of Aum Shinrikyo and US domestic terrorists to acquire, produce and disseminate ʹweaponisedʹ biological agents, and the anthrax attacks through the US Postal Service are among the events that have contributed to increased awareness of a possible biological threat.

      While assessments of the actual threat remain controversial, the perceived threat already has led to extensive changes in...


    • Chapter 9: Implementing and Measuring the Efficacy of Biosecurity and Dual-use Education
      (pp. 165-178)

      Teaching security-related issues to science students is increasingly salient in the international security discourse, yet despite the calls for greater education, research conducted by the authors and others contributing to this volume (as in the chapters by Friedman and Minehata and Shinomiya) demonstrates that the calls for, and interest in, biosecurity education have too infrequently been converted to commensurate activity at the level of the practising life scientist. Indeed, it remains clear from previous chapters that there are currently limits to the extent of biosecurity education and the process of promulgation and implementation of education has been slow, something stymied...

    • Chapter 10: Biosecurity Awareness-raising and Education for Life Scientists: What Should be Done Now?
      (pp. 179-196)

      The 1975 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) added to the ban on the use of biological weapons embodied in the 1925 Geneva Protocol by what was termed the ʹGeneral Purpose Criterionʹ of Article 1. This stated that:¹

      Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:

      1. Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes…

      Thus, peaceful uses of the modern life sciences are fully protected, but...

    • Chapter 11: Teaching Ethics to Science Students: Challenges and a Strategy
      (pp. 197-214)

      To be an effective scientist in the twenty-first century requires not only a specialised scientific knowledge but an appreciation of the ethical dimension of science. Scientists need to be able to recognise ethical dilemmas and formulate coherent responses to them. But scientists are not philosophers or ethicists, and their ethics education, therefore, needs to be different from that frequently offered as part of mainstream ethics courses, particularly those on moral theory. This chapter will argue that dual-use dilemmas and role-play involving real scientific case studies are an ideal vehicle for effectively engaging future scientists in ethics education, and helping furnish...

  9. Conclusion: Lessons for Moving Ahead
    (pp. 215-222)

    If we are to avoid the life sciences becoming the death sciences — as has happened in so many fields of knowledge — then concerted thought and action is required. Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences has attended to one aspect of the ʹwebʹ¹ of measures necessary to avert this prospect. The need for greater education and awareness about the security–science link was one of the reasons motivating this volume. Its contributions have supported this starting impetus and elaborated the contours. The authors have examined a variety of emerging efforts to attend to the possibility that the life...