What Science Says About Fair and Effective Law Enforcement

The Ferguson case and nationwide public reaction have highlighted very different views of policing among the public. The National Research Council’s 2004 report Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence addressed these concerns.

From the report:

“Policing is primarily shaped by two public expectations. First, the police are called on to deal with crime and disorder, preventing them when possible, and to bring to account those who disobey the law. Second, the public expects their police to be impartial, producing justice through the fair, effective, and restrained use of their authority. The standards by which the public judges police success in meeting these expectations have become more exacting and challenging, and police agencies today must find ways to respond in an effective, affordable, and legitimate way.”

A scientific knowledge base exists for helping communities to decide what strategies to use to reduce crime and disorder while increasing police legitimacy. Recommendations of Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing provide guidance for creating more effective, fair, efficient, and accountable policing in the 21st century. This report and other reports in our Law and Justice Collection evaluate the evidence base and recommend best practices for policing, evidence collection and processing, and eyewitness identification. All are free to download.

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (2004)

ISBN 978-0-309-28965-8

Because police are the most visible face of government power for most citizens, they are expected to deal effectively with crime and disorder and to be impartial. Producing justice through the fair, and restrained use of their authority. The …


Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification (2014)

ISBN 978-0-309-31059-8

Eyewitnesses play an important role in criminal cases when they can identify culprits. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of eyewitnesses make identifications in criminal investigations each year. Research on factors that affect the …


Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009)

ISBN 978-0-309-13130-8

Scores of talented and dedicated people serve the forensic science community, performing vitally important work. However, they are often constrained by lack of adequate resources, sound policies, and national support. It is clear that change and …


Forensic Analysis Weighing Bullet Lead Evidence (2004)

ISBN 978-0-309-09079-7

Since the 1960s, testimony by representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in thousands of criminal cases has relied on evidence from Compositional Analysis of Bullet Lead (CABL), a forensic technique that compares the elemental …


The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence (1996)

ISBN 978-0-309-12194-1

In 1992 the National Research Council issued DNA Technology in Forensic Science, a book that documented the state of the art in this emerging field. Recently, this volume was brought to worldwide attention in the murder trial of celebrity O. …


DNA Technology in Forensic Science (1992)

ISBN 978-0-309-04587-2

Matching DNA samples from crime scenes and suspects is rapidly becoming a key source of evidence for use in our justice system. DNA Technology in Forensic Science offers recommendations for resolving crucial questions that are emerging as DNA …


Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition (2011)

ISBN 978-0-309-21421-6

The Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Third Edition, assists judges in managing cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence by describing the basic tenets of key scientific fields from which legal evidence is typically …


The Best Solution to Combined Sewer Overflow May be the Sustainable One

During a bad storm in the Detroit area in August, an estimated 4.5 billion gallons of sewage entered the water supply when the combined sewer systems overflowed. Such overflows can pose a risk to human health and aquatic life as they send chemicals and untreated sewage straight into the nearest body of water.

epa diagram

This diagram from the EPA shows how combined sewer systems can overflow during heavy rain

Traditionally, local governments and regulatory agencies have favored “gray infrastructure,” which includes sewer separation, storage tunnels, and additional treatment units. However, the cost of building an infrastructure with sufficient capacity to avoid CSO’s during unusually large storm events can exceed the point of commensurate benefits, such as the amount of risk reduction expected over a certain period.

Permeable pavement, which allows water to reach the ground beneath

As an alternative approach, the EPA is starting to encourage “green infrastructure” — methods such as constructed wetlands, rainwater harvesting, and pervious or porous pavements — to provide a wider range of benefits to the community and the environment. Green infrastructure can also help air pollution, energy use, habitat connectivity, and even the economy.

The recent NRC report Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making examines scientific tools and approaches for incorporating sustainability concepts into assessments used to support EPA decision making. Committee Chair Mike Kavanaugh explains, “As discussed in the committee’s report, consideration of the benefits of green infrastructure as part of CSO control planning for the long-term is one of many ways in which EPA and other government agencies can incorporate sustainability concepts into decision-making.”

Further explore sustainability with these reports from the National Research Council. All are free to download.

Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency

In its current strategic plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes a cross-agency strategy to advance sustainable environmental outcomes and optimize economic and social outcomes through Agency decisions and actions. Sustainability has evolved from an aspiration to a growing body of practices. The evolution includes a transition from the development of broad goals toward the implementation of specific policies and programs for achieving them and the use of indicators and …


Sustainability and the U.S. EPA

Sustainability is based on a simple and long-recognized factual premise: Everything that humans require for their survival and well-being depends, directly or indirectly, on the natural environment. The environment provides the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

Recognizing the importance of sustainability to its work, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to create programs and applications in a variety of areas to better incorporate …


Science for Environmental Protection: The Road Ahead

In anticipation of future environmental science and engineering challenges and technologic advances, EPA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to assess the overall capabilities of the agency to develop, obtain, and use the best available scientific and technologic information and tools to meet persistent, emerging, and future mission challenges and opportunities. Although the committee cannot predict with certainty what new environmental problems EPA will face in the next 10 years or …


Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connection and Governance Linkages

A “sustainable society,” according to one definition, “is one that can persist over generations; one that is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough not to undermine either its physical or its social system of support.” As the government sector works hard to ensure sufficient fresh water, food, energy, housing, health, and education for the nation without limiting resources for the future generations, it’s clear that there is no sufficient organization to deal with sustainability …


Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment

Risk assessment has become a dominant public policy tool for making choices, based on limited resources, to protect public health and the environment. It has been instrumental to the mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as other federal agencies in evaluating public health concerns, informing regulatory and technological decisions, prioritizing research needs and funding, and in developing approaches for cost-benefit analysis.

However, risk assessment is …


What’s Up with Shale Gas? Science to Inform Debate and Decisions


Shale gas is providing an increasing share of U.S. natural gas production. In 2010, 20% of the nation’s natural gas supply came from shale gas. Experts predict that by 2035, as much as 46% of the United States’ supply could come from shale gas. While many people believe that natural gas is a cleaner energy alternative that can ease our dependence on petroleum, others have concerns about the environmental effects of “fracking.” What’s the scientific evidence base for shale energy decision making? How can policy makers account for possible adverse effects? Reports from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine explore these and related topics. All are free to download.

Risks and Risk Governance in Shale Gas Development: Summary of Two Workshops

Natural gas in deep shale formations, which can be developed by hydraulic fracturing and associated technologies (often collectively referred to as “fracking”) is dramatically increasing production of natural gas in the United States, where …


Health Impact Assessment of Shale Gas Extraction: Workshop Summary

Natural gas extraction from shale formations, which includes hydraulic fracturing, is increasingly in the news as the use of extraction technologies has expanded, rural communities have been transformed seemingly overnight, public awareness has …


Development of Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources in the Appalachian Basin: Workshop Summary

Development of Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources in the Appalachian Basin is the summary of a workshop convened by the National Research Council to examine the geology and unconventional hydrocarbon resources of the Appalachian Basin; …


Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies

In the past several years, some energy technologies that inject or extract fluid from the Earth, such as oil and gas development and geothermal energy development, have been found or suspected to cause seismic events, drawing heightened public …


America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation

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Energy touches our lives in countless ways and its costs are felt when we fill up at the gas pump, pay our home heating …


Science to Understand Impacts of Arctic Sea Ice Loss


This image from the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center shows that Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17. Their analysis shows that this year’s minimum extent remains in line with a downward trend; the Arctic Ocean is losing about 13 percent of its sea ice per decade.

According to the National Research Council report, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change, rapid reduction in Arctic sea ice already qualifies as an abrupt change with substantial decreases in ice extent occurring within the past several decades. Projections from climate models suggest that ice loss will continue in the future, with the full disappearance of late-summer Arctic sea ice possible in the coming decades.

From the report: “The impacts of rapid decreases in Arctic sea ice are likely to be considerable. More open water conditions during summer would have potentially large and irreversible effects on various components of the Arctic ecosystem, including disruptions in the marine food web, shifts in the habitats of some marine mammals, and erosion of vulnerable coastlines. Because the Arctic region interacts with the large-scale circulation systems of the ocean and atmosphere, changes in the extent of sea ice could cause shifts in climate and weather around the northern hemisphere. The Arctic is also a region of increasing economic importance for a diverse range of stakeholders, and reductions in Arctic sea ice will bring new legal and political challenges as navigation routes for commercial shipping open and marine access to the region increases for offshore oil and gas development, tourism, fishing and other activities.”

For more information, check out our reports on the abrupt impacts of climate change and the changing Arctic ecosystem. All are free to download.

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises (2013)

ISBN 978-0-309-28773-9

Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that …


Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns: Summary of a Workshop (2014)

ISBN 978-0-309-30188-6

The Arctic has been undergoing significant changes in recent years. Average temperatures are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. The extent and thickness of sea ice is rapidly declining. Such changes may have an impact on …


The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions (2014)

ISBN 978-0-309-30183-1

Once ice-bound, difficult to access, and largely ignored by the rest of the world, the Arctic is now front and center in the midst of many important questions facing the world today. Our daily weather, what we eat, and coastal flooding are all …


Responding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment (2014)

ISBN 978-0-309-29886-5

U.S. Arctic waters north of the Bering Strait and west of the Canadian border encompass a vast area that is usually ice covered for much of the year, but is increasingly experiencing longer periods and larger areas of open water due to climate …


Infectious Disease Emergence, Establishment, and Spread – Science to Understand the Ebola Epidemic

As the Ebola epidemic continues, the space in treatment centers and the number of medical personnel is severely outpaced by the number of patients infected with the disease. According to the World Health Organization, “Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially.” The African Union promised last Monday to send at least 100 people to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for a six-month medical support mission. The United States and the United Kingdom will begin providing logistical and operational support. As of this writing, the epidemic has killed at least 2,100 people in five West African countries.

This figure from the Centers for Disease Control shows the locations of treatment centers in comparison to the areas affected by the outbreak.

What do we know about global readiness and capacity for surveillance, detection, and response to emerging microbial threats to plant, animal, and human health? To get a scientific perspective, we asked Dr. Eileen Choffnes, with the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Board on Global Health, for her thoughts.

“The 2003 IOM report, Microbial Threats to Health, identified changing ecosystems; economic development and land use; climate and weather; and international travel and commerce as ecological and environmental factors that can influence the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. The last several decades have provided ample evidence of the impact of these factors—individually and synergistically—on the ecology of microbes, vectors, and animal reservoirs; the transmissibility of microbes; and the exposure pathways between microorganisms and new hosts. And, despite the International Health Regulations of 2005, the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa has exposed gaping holes in the ability to tackle outbreaks in an increasingly interconnected world, where diseases can quickly spread from remote villages to cities housing millions of people.”

Reports from the IOM’s Forum on Microbial Threats explore the scientific and policy implications of infectious disease emergence, establishment, and spread. All are free to download.

The Influence of Global Environmental Change on Infectious Disease Dynamics: Workshop Summary (2014)

ISBN 978-0-309-30499-3

The twentieth century witnessed an era of unprecedented, large-scale, anthropogenic changes to the natural environment. Understanding how environmental factors directly and indirectly affect the emergence and spread of infectious disease has …


Microbial Ecology in States of Health and Disease: Workshop Summary (2014)

ISBN 978-0-309-29062-3

Individually and collectively, resident microbes play important roles in host health and survival. Shaping and shaped by their host environments, these microorganisms form intricate communities that are in a state of dynamic equilibrium. This …


The Social Biology of Microbial Communities: Workshop Summary (2012)

ISBN 978-0-309-26432-7

Beginning with the germ theory of disease in the 19th century and extending through most of the 20th century, microbes were believed to live their lives as solitary, unicellular, disease-causing organisms . This perception stemmed from the focus …


The Causes and Impacts of Neglected Tropical and Zoonotic Diseases: Opportunities for Integrated Intervention Strategies: Workshop Summary (2011)

ISBN 978-0-309-18634-6

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) afflict more than 1.4 billion people, many of whom live on less than $1.25 a day. While there are effective ways to manage NTDs, policy-makers and funders have only recently begun to recognize the economic and …


Infectious Disease Movement in a Borderless World: Workshop Summary (2010)

ISBN 978-0-309-14447-6

Modern transportation allows people, animals, and plants–and the pathogens they carry–to travel more easily than ever before. The ease and speed of travel, tourism, and international trade connect once-remote areas with one another, eliminating …


Global Issues in Water, Sanitation, and Health: Workshop Summary (2009)

ISBN 978-0-309-13872-7

As the human population grows–tripling in the past century while, simultaneously, quadrupling its demand for water–Earth’s finite freshwater supplies are increasingly strained, and also increasingly contaminated by domestic, agricultural, and …


Vector-Borne Diseases: Understanding the Environmental, Human Health, and Ecological Connections, Workshop Summary (Forum on Microbial Threats) (2008)

ISBN 978-0-309-10897-3

Vector-borne infectious diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and plague, cause a significant fraction of the global infectious disease burden; indeed, nearly half of the world’s population is infected with at least one type of …


Microbial Threats to Health: Emergence, Detection, and Response (2003)

ISBN 978-0-309-27875-1

Infectious diseases are a global hazard that puts every nation and every person at risk. The recent SARS outbreak is a prime example. Knowing neither geographic nor political borders, often arriving silently and lethally, microbial pathogens …


Safe Science and the Need for Improved Lab Protection

Photo credit: Keck Graduate Institute

In June of this year, five years after the UCLA laboratory fire that claimed the life of a staff research assistant, the case against organic chemistry professor Patrick Harran came to an end.

The fire started when Sheharbano Sangji’s plastic syringe broke and exposed a volatile chemical to the air. Without a protective lab coat, she suffered severe burns and died 18 days later. UCLA and Sangji’s supervisor, Harran, were held accountable for the accident, though the charges against UCLA were dropped in 2012.

Now, the charges against Harran will be dismissed thanks to the deferred prosecution agreement. Part of the agreement includes speaking to new UCLA students about the importance of lab safety.

The UCLA accident was not an isolated incident. In January 2010, a Texas Tech graduate student was severely injured in a laboratory explosion. He had neglected several safety precautions, including the use of a blast shield and personal protective wear. Just over a year later, in April 2011, an undergraduate student was killed in Yale’s laboratory machine shop. She was asphyxiated when her hair became tangled in a lathe.

These accidents — and others like them — highlight the need for improved lab safety. But enforcing compliance to a series of increasing regulation can only go so far in protecting researchers. Academic laboratories need a better, more permanent solution. That solution is to adopt a culture of safety:

A culture of safety in academic laboratories that transcends inspections, standard operating procedures, and chemical safety plans. A true safety culture represents a total commitment to achieving safety even in the absence of specific rules or other regulatory guidance. It means making safety a ongoing operational priority.

That’s what the National Research Council recommends in its new report, Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research. The report’s recommendations challenge many longstanding ideas about chemical research, and ask for a fundamental shift in how we approach lab safety. Adopting a culture of safety is the best way to mitigate the inherent dangers of the laboratory and to protect our researchers.

To read the report, visit Safe Science’s page on our website.

Science and Infectious Disease: Resources to Understand the Ebola Outbreak

This photo shows MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) health staff in protective clothing constructing perimeter for an Ebola isolation ward.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 670 people and spread to four countries. The disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment. It has a fatality rate of at least 60%. What do we know about infectious diseases, and what can we do to monitor and prevent their spread? Reports of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academies are a great resource to understand the science that will be critical to resolving this crisis. All are free to download.

Infectious Disease Movement in a Borderless World: Workshop Summary

Modern transportation allows people, animals, and plants–and the pathogens they carry–to travel more easily than ever before. The ease and speed of travel, tourism, and international trade connect once-remote areas with one another, eliminating …


Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases

H1N1 (“swine flu”), SARS, mad cow disease, and HIV/AIDS are a few examples of zoonotic diseases-diseases transmitted between humans and animals. Zoonotic diseases are a growing concern given multiple factors: their often novel and unpredictable …


Vector-Borne Diseases: Understanding the Environmental, Human Health, and Ecological Connections, Workshop Summary (Forum on Microbial Threats)

Vector-borne infectious diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and plague, cause a significant fraction of the global infectious disease burden; indeed, nearly half of the world’s population is infected with at least one type of …


What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease

About a quarter of deaths worldwide–many of them children–are caused by infectious organisms. The World Health Organization reports that new infectious diseases are continuing to emerge and familiar ones are appearing in new locations around …


Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Understanding the Contributions to Infectious Disease Emergence: Workshop Summary

Long before the “germ theory” of disease was described, late in the nineteenth century, humans knew that climatic conditions influence the appearance and spread of epidemic diseases. Ancient notions about the effects of weather and climate on …


Achieving Sustainable Global Capacity for Surveillance and Response to Emerging Diseases of Zoonotic Origin: Workshop Summary

One of the biggest threats today is the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of a novel pathogen or the re-emergence of a known infectious disease that might result in disease outbreaks with great losses of human life and immense global economic …


Resources on Groundwater Loss in Western States

loss of groundwater

This photo taken by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shows that surface-water depletion in the Colorado River Basin has left this “bathtub ring” of mineral deposits on Lake Mead. While it can be easy to spot surface-water loss, groundwater loss is invisible.

A new study by NASA and University of California at Irvine reports that seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River Basin for water are drawing more heavily from groundwater supplies than previously believed, the latest indication that a historic drought is threatening the region’s future access to water.

Does climate change influence drought? What should be done to both provide water and protect ecosystems? Reports from the National Research Council explore these questions. Our resources discuss the science of climate change, consider climate change impacts at community and national levels, and recommend areas for further research. We also have reports that discuss options to provide water by improving water management and promoting water reuse. All are free to download.

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises

Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that …


Advancing the Science of Climate Change

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for–and in many cases is already affecting–a broad range of human and natural systems. The compelling case for these conclusions is provided in …


Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

Across the United States, impacts of climate change are already evident. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, cold extremes have become less frequent, and patterns of rainfall are likely changing. The proportion of precipitation that …


Global Change and Extreme Hydrology: Testing Conventional Wisdom

Climate theory dictates that core elements of the climate system, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, and reservoirs of atmospheric and soil moisture, should change as the climate warms, both in their means and extremes. A major …


Water Reuse: Potential for Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply Through Reuse of Municipal Wastewater

Expanding water reuse–the use of treated wastewater for beneficial purposes including irrigation, industrial uses, and drinking water augmentation–could significantly increase the nation’s total available water resources. Water Reuse


Desalination: A National Perspective

There has been an exponential increase in desalination capacity both globally and nationally since 1960, fueled in part by growing concern for local water scarcity and made possible to a great extent by a major federal investment for desalination …


Prospects for Managed Underground Storage of Recoverable Water

Growing demands for water in many parts of the nation are fueling the search for new approaches to sustainable water management, including how best to store water. Society has historically relied on dams and reservoirs, but problems such as high …


Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability

Recent studies of past climate and streamflow conditions have broadened understanding of long-term water availability in the Colorado River, revealing many periods when streamflow was lower than at any time in the past 100 years of recorded …


Challenges Facing the CDC’s Research Laboratories as They Review Lab Safety

Following several recent incidents of possible exposure to dangerous diseases, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced last week that it has halted operations at its bioterrorism rapid-response lab and an influenza lab and imposed a moratorium on any biological material leaving numerous other CDC labs. National Research Council reports discuss operational safety and security and measures for encouraging a culture of responsible conduct when working with select agents. These titles can provide insight into the challenges facing these laboratories. All are free to download.

Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-Containment Biological Laboratories

During July 10-13, 2011, 68 participants from 32 countries gathered in Istanbul, Turkey for a workshop organized by the United States National Research Council on Anticipating Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-containment Biological Laboratories. The United States Department of State’s Biosecurity Engagement Program sponsored the workshop, which was held in partnership with the Turkish Academy of Sciences. The international workshop examined biosafety and biosecurity …


Perspectives on Research with H5N1 Avian Influenza: Scientific Inquiry, Communication, Controversy: Summary of a Workshop

When, in late 2011, it became public knowledge that two research groups had submitted for publication manuscripts that reported on their work on mammalian transmissibility of a lethal H5N1 avian influenza strain, the information caused an international debate about the appropriateness and communication of the researchers’ work, the risks associated with the work, partial or complete censorship of scientific publications, and dual-use research of concern in general.

Recognizing that …


Evaluation of the Updated Site-Specific Risk Assessment for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas

Safeguarding U.S. agriculture from foreign animal diseases and protecting our food system require cutting-edge research and diagnostic capabilities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have embarked on an important mission to replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) with a new facility, the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). When operational, this new facility would be the world’s fourth biosafety level-4 …


Responsible Research with Biological Select Agents and Toxins

The effort to understand and combat infectious diseases has, during the centuries, produced many key advances in science and medicine–including the development of vaccines, drugs, and other treatments. A subset of this research is conducted with agents that, like anthrax, not only pose a severe threat to the health of humans, plants, and animals but can also be used for ill-intended purposes. Such agents have been listed by the government as biological select agents and toxins. The 2001 …


Protecting the Frontline in Biodefense Research: The Special Immunizations Program

The U.S. Army’s Special Immunizations Program is an important component of an overall biosafety program for laboratory workers at risk of exposure to hazardous pathogens. The program provides immunizations to scientists, laboratory technicians and other support staff who work with certain hazardous pathogens and toxins. Although first established to serve military personnel, the program was expanded through a cost-sharing agreement in 2004 to include other government and civilian workers, …


Sequence-Based Classification of Select Agents: A Brighter Line

Select Agents are defined in regulations through a list of names of particularly dangerous known bacteria, viruses, toxins, and fungi. However, natural variation and intentional genetic modification blur the boundaries of any discrete Select Agent list based on names. Access to technologies that can generate or ‘synthesize’ any DNA sequence is expanding, making it easier and less expensive for researchers, industry scientists, and amateur users to create organisms without needing to obtain …


Research in the Life Sciences with Dual Use Potential: An International Faculty Development Project on Education About the Responsible Conduct of Science

In many countries, colleges and universities are where the majority of innovative research is done; in all cases, they are where future scientists receive both their initial training and their initial introduction to the norms of scientific conduct regardless of their eventual career paths. Thus, institutions of higher education are particularly relevant to the tasks of education on research with dual use potential, whether for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate …


Our cybersecurity expert gives his take on the charges of cyberattack by the Chinese army

The recent charges of hacking into US corporate targets against five members of the Chinese army has brought the issue of cybersecurity into the headlines. We asked Herb Lin, one of the editors of our new report on the intersection of cybersecurity and public policy, for his thoughts:

“As discussed in At the Nexus Of Cybersecurity and Policy, this story brings to the fore differences in how the United States and virtually every other nation view intelligence gathering. The United States draws sharp distinctions between intelligence for national security purposes and for economic purposes, whereas China (and most other nations in the world) do not. The difference in values is not likely to be reconciled any time soon. It also turns out that access was gained through the use of relatively unsophisticated penetration techniques, thus underscoring the point that simple defensive techniques can have significant value.” — Herb Lin, Chief Scientist at the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Watch this video of Herb running down six things to know about cybersecurity and public policy, and some of the things we can do to start tackling the problems: